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The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University October 3, 2005 | Vol. 35 No. 5
Researcher Receives $2.5 Million Award to Pursue Virus Surveillance

By Kenna Lowe
School of Public Health

Nathan D. Wolfe, an assistant professor in the Bloomberg School of Public Health's departments of Epidemiology and Molecular Microbiology and Immunology, has received a $2.5 million National Institutes of Health Director's Pioneer Award. It will be apportioned in $500,000 installments for five years. He is the first Johns Hopkins researcher to receive the award, which supports exceptionally creative scientists who take innovative approaches to major challenges in biomedical research.

Wolfe, who studies the emergence of infectious diseases, combines methods from molecular virology, ecology, evolutionary biology and anthropology to study the biology of viral emergence. He said he plans to use his Pioneer Award to collaborate with subsistence hunters in regions of high biodiversity to establish a surveillance system to monitor the entry of novel viruses into humans, which is a significant threat to global public health. He will also use new technologies for detecting unknown microorganisms. A recipient of a Fulbright fellowship, Wolfe was also this month named one of the "Brilliant 10" by Popular Science magazine.

"It's an incredible privilege and responsibility to participate in this award program," Wolfe said. "I'm pleased the NIH has chosen to support research aimed at understanding how viruses emerge and of the need for systems to detect novel viruses before they become pandemics."

The award gives 13 recipients, selected from 840 nominations, the intellectual freedom to pursue groundbreaking new research directions that could have significant impact if successful but that, due to their novelty or other factors, also have inherently high risks of failure. Research proposals were evaluated with a focus on their innovativeness and creativity, the importance of the scientific problem to be addressed and the likelihood that the project's success would have a high impact on biomedical research.


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