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HHMI award lets U-M biochemist explore big ideas-added 04/13/09 Ann Arbor - For the next six years, a prestigious award from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute will allow Ming Lei to push ahead, unfettered by funding worries, in his search to understand the activity of telomeres, the protective caps at the ends of chromosomes.
Lei, an assistant professor of biological chemistry at the University of Michigan Medical School, is one of 50 scientists at 33 institutions nationwide to receive the Institute's new Early Career Scientist awards March 26. He was chosen from more than 2,000 applicants.
Telomeres shorten as people age. Lei's work will aid the understanding of the aging process and may also lead to a new approach to treating cancer.
HHMI has long supported established scientists. The new program is designed for scientists who are in the first two to six years of their careers. The goal: to help promising researchers pursue their most creative ideas without being sidetracked by the often frustrating quest for funding.
HHMI will provide each Early Career Scientist with full salary, benefits, and a research budget of $1.5 million over the six-year appointment. The Institute will also cover other expenses, including research space and equipment purchase. The awards begin in September.
"This support from HHMI will stimulate me to do the research that I am passionate about, rather than being guided by what can be funded under the current funding climate," Lei said.
The Howard Hughes Medical Institute, a nonprofit medical research organization that is one of the nation's largest philanthropies, plays a powerful role in advancing biomedical research and science education in the United States. In the past two decades HHMI has made investments of more than $8.3 billion for the support, training, and education of the nation's most creative and promising scientists. HHMI's principal mission is conducting basic biomedical research, which it carries out in collaboration with more than 60 universities and medical centers, including U-M, nd other research institutions throughout the United States.
Written by Nicole Fawcett