Dr. Wu Chen, Ph.D., postdoctoral associate in the laboratory of Dr. Mingshan Xue at Baylor College of Medicine, was announced as the winner of the 2020 Duncan NRI Zoghbi Scholar Award on September 14, 2020.
This award was established in 2017 by Dr. Huda Zoghbi, director of the Jan and Dan Duncan Neurological Research Institute (Duncan NRI) at Texas Children's Hospital, to honor the many generations of trainees who have worked in her laboratory and foster the next generation of successful scientists.
The award is open to senior Duncan NRI postdoctoral fellows who anticipate transitioning to independent investigator positions within a year or so. It is intended to provide grant support and mentorship to senior trainees as they begin to develop ideas for their future research programs. The scholar receives $50,000 to pursue innovative projects that will form the foundation of their independent research programs, in addition to a personal prize of $3,000.
This year’s awardee, Chen is interested in developing gene therapy to treat neurological disorders especially epilepsy using transgenic animal models. His innovative proposal for this award was titled, "Downregulating Matrix Metallopeptidase-9 in adulthood to rescue a mouse model of epileptic encephalopathy”.
He proposes to down-regulate a member of enzyme family that degrades the extracellular matrix, the matrix metalloproteinase-9, using gene therapy to suppress seizures and improve cognitive function in a mice that exhibit epileptic encephalopathy, a group of disorders in which unrelenting epileptic activity contributes to severe progressive cognitive and behavioral impairments. Findings from this study could identify novel treatment options for this catastrophic condition.
The selection committee, comprised of Drs. Mingshan Xue, Mirjana Maletic-Savatic, Meng Wang, Jeannie Chin and Christophe Herman strives to provide equally detailed feedback and mentorship to all the applicants to ensure their future professional success.
More information about the award application process is available here.