Marius Wernig, Manu Prakash receive early-career grants

The Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Simons Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation selected 84 young scientists who will receive five-year grants to support their work.

Manu Prakash

Two School of Medicine faculty members are among the 84 early-career scientists to be named 2016 Faculty Scholars by three philanthropic organizations.

The five-year grants were announced Sept. 22 by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Simons Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The three organizations will spend about $83 million over the course of the grant period to support the recipients. The total award for each researcher ranges from $600,000 to $1.8 million, including indirect costs. Faculty Scholars are required to devote at least 50 percent of their total effort to the direct conduct of research.

The two grant recipients from the School of Medicine are Manu Prakash, PhD, assistant professor of bioengineering; and Marius Wernig, MD, PhD, associate professor of pathology.

Prakash was named an HHMI-Gates Faculty Scholar. He studies simple animals to better understand how a small collection of cells gives rise to a multicellular organism. He also develops new imaging tools and techniques based on soft-matter physics that aid in his quest to understand the origins of complex behavior in simple animals. In addition, he develops tools for “frugal science” — inexpensive devices that can be used to tackle global health problems and that also aim to democratize access to scientific experience.

Marius Wernig

Wernig was named an HHMI Faculty Scholar. He investigates the molecular mechanisms that determine cell lineage identity, focusing on reprogramming skin and stem cells into functional neurons. His work includes translational efforts to treat an incurable genetic skin disease and various diseases of the nervous system such as multiple sclerosis.

Three other Stanford faculty members also received grants. They are: Alex Dunn, PhD, associate professor of chemical engineering, who was named an HHMI Faculty Scholar; Elizabeth Sattely, PhD, assistant professor of chemical engineering, who was named an HHMI-Simons Faculty Scholar; and Jan Skotheim, PhD, associate professor of biology, who was named an HHMI-Simons Faculty Scholar.

This is the first collaboration between the philanthropies, which created the Faculty Scholars program in response to growing concern about the significant challenges that early-career scientists face. Researchers with more than four, but no more than 10, years of experience as faculty members were eligible to receive grants. More than 1,400 scientists from 220 institutions applied for them.

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