Johns Hopkins Gazette | January 26, 2009
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The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University January 26, 2009 | Vol. 38 No. 19
BSI Grant Recipients Stand Out for Breadth, Innovation

By Marjorie Centofanti
Johns Hopkins Medicine

Johns Hopkins' Brain Science Institute has just announced its second cycle of research grants, awards totaling $6.4 million over a two-year period. The 16 grants extend to research teams throughout the university's schools and campuses, advancing the BSI goal to solve fundamental questions of brain development and function and translate those findings into therapy.

In this cycle, 89 investigative teams forwarded possible research topics for three of the institute's target areas: new approaches to perception and cognition, regeneration and repair in the nervous system, and schizophrenia.

The proposals reflect the BSI's aim to spark broader collaborations and unusual creativity in neuroscience research across Johns Hopkins. Three-quarters of the faculty who applied are in the School of Medicine — from 11 departments, the Institute for Basic Biomedical Sciences and the Institute for Cellular Engineering — and the remaining from APL; the schools of Engineering, Public Health, Education, and Arts and Sciences; the Zanvyl Krieger Mind/Brain Institute; and the Kennedy Krieger Institute.

Successful grantees were chosen by the BSI's executive committee along with a largely external committee of experts.

More than scientific merit figured into a grant award: A project had to have high marks for innovation, bring together new multidisciplinary groups and show potential for high impact in a given field. "The quality of proposed research was, on the whole, outstanding," said John Griffin, BSI director, "and we regret not being able to fund all projects with merit."

Among the successful grantees in the perception and cognition area are investigators whose proposals involve novel neuroimaging. Other projects include a broad-based effort in systems physiology — led by the Mind/Brain Institute's Edward Connor — to identify common themes in handling visual, auditory and somatosensory information. Hongjun Song and his colleagues at the Institute for Cell Engineering sparked reviewers' enthusiasm: Song's team hopes to differentiate human-induced pluripotent stem cells from skin into desired neuronal types for research. Psychiatry's Akira Sawa will assess altered oxidative lymphocyte metabolism in schizophrenia patients. And Jef Boeke has developed a retrotransposon-based tiling chip to hunt for genetic changes in that disease.

For a complete list of grantees, go to the BSI Web site at


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