Newswise — Lindsay Schwarz, Ph.D, an assistant member in the Developmental Neurobiology Department at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, has won a prestigious early career award from the National Institutes of Health. The High-Risk, High-Reward Research program supports exceptionally creative scientists pursuing research that has potential for broad impact in biomedical, behavioral or social sciences.

Schwarz is receiving the NIH Director’s New Innovator Award, which supports unusually innovative research from early career investigators who are within 10 years of their final degree or clinical residency and have not yet received a research project grant or equivalent NIH grant. This award is one of four types of awards in the High-Risk, High-Reward Research program.

Schwarz, who joined St. Jude faculty in 2017, oversees her own lab in the Neural Circuits and Behavior division, which works to understand how neurons in the nervous system are organized to promote behaviors and how disruption within neural circuits promotes neurological disease. Schwarz’s research focuses on a particular class of cells in the brain called norepinephrine neurons.  Her team also works to create new molecular tools that target neural circuits in the brain with improved accuracy and resolution. “Using these tools, we will address how a discrete neural circuit, the locus coeruleus (LC), promotes a wide range of arousal-related behaviors,” Schwarz said. “As the LC has long been implicated in mood disorders like depression and anxiety, this work also sets the stage for uncovering how particular alterations in the LC system could promote specific symptoms of these diseases.”

The NIH award recognizes that tools developed by the Schwarz lab will be useful for neuroscientists studying a wide range of topics, and may even be useful for targeting specific cell populations outside of the brain. The award, to be funded over five years, will be used to further this work.

“Our plan to develop new intersectional tools that target cells based on multiple features should facilitate scientific discovery across biological fields,” Schwarz said. “Each year, I look forward to seeing the creative approaches these researchers take to solve tough problems in biomedical and behavioral research,” said NIH Director Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D. “I am confident the 2019 cohort of awardees has the potential to advance our mission of enhancing health through their groundbreaking studies.”

The NIH awarded 93 grants in the 2019 cohort, totaling approximately $267 million, pending available funds. Funding for the awards comes from the NIH Common Fund; National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health; National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering; National Institute of General Medical Sciences; National Institute of Mental Health; National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke; National Institute on Aging; National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism; and National Institute on Drug Abuse.

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About St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital is leading the way the world understands, treats and cures childhood cancer and other life-threatening diseases. It is the only National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center devoted solely to children. Treatments developed at St. Jude have helped push the overall childhood cancer survival rate from 20 percent to 80 percent since the hospital opened more than 50 years ago. St. Jude freely shares the breakthroughs it makes, and every child saved at St. Jude means doctors and scientists worldwide can use that knowledge to save thousands more children. Families never receive a bill from St. Jude for treatment, travel, housing and food—because all a family should worry about is helping their child live. To learn more, visit stjude.org or follow St. Jude on social media at @stjuderesearch.

 

About the NIH Common Fund: The NIH Common Fund encourages collaboration and supports a series of exceptionally high-impact, trans-NIH programs. Common Fund programs are managed by the Office of Strategic Coordination in the Division of Program Coordination, Planning, and Strategic Initiatives in the NIH Office of the Director in partnership with the NIH Institutes, Centers, and Offices. More information is available at the Common Fund website: https://commonfund.nih.gov.

 

About the National Institutes of Health (NIH): NIH, the nation's medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit www.nih.gov.