Gwendalyn J. Randolph, PhD, director of the Division of Immunobiology at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, has been chosen as a 2015 recipient of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director’s Pioneer Award.
The Pioneer Award is funded by the NIH Common Fund’s High-Risk, High-Reward Research program.
Established in 2004, the award challenges investigators at all career levels to pursue new research directions and develop groundbreaking approaches that have a high impact on a broad area of biomedical or behavioral science.
Randolph is one of 13 Pioneer award winners this year. Her project is designed to bring new conceptual and technical approaches to the study of inflammatory bowel disease, particularly Crohn’s disease.
“Our hypothesis is that blood vessel problems may be at the core of the disease,” Randolph explained. “We believe changes in the immune system go hand in hand with changes in blood vessels. Over time, the changes lead to the development of lesions in the gut that may require patients to undergo surgery for bowel obstructions.”
Randolph will study patients with Crohn’s disease. She will analyze the activity of immune cells and lipoproteins in the gut and track changes in blood vessels.
After receiving her doctorate in 1995 from the State University of New York at Stony Brook, Randolph completed her postdoctoral studies under the co-mentorship of the late Nobel laureate and immunologist Ralph M. Steinman, MD, at The Rockefeller University, and vascular biologist William A. Muller, MD, PhD, at Weill Cornell Medical College.
She joined the faculty at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York in 2000. While there, Randolph’s laboratory pioneered approaches to investigate the trafficking of immune cells and lipoproteins in the chronic inflammatory disease atherosclerosis. She came to the Department of Pathology at Washington University School of Medicine in 2011 and was appointed director of the Division of Immunobiology this year.
Her past awards include an Established Investigator Award from the American Heart Association, the Harold and Golden Lamport Research Award at Mount Sinai and the Innovator Award and Breakthrough Award from the Rainin Foundation. The latter paved the way for the work proposed in her Pioneer Award application.
This year, NIH’s High-Risk, High-Reward Research program will provide about $21 million in 78 grants to scientists around the country.
“This program has consistently produced research that revolutionized scientific fields by giving investigators the freedom to take risks and explore potentially groundbreaking concepts,” said NIH Director Francis S. Collins, MD, PhD. “We look forward to the remarkable advances in biomedical research the 2015 awardees will make.”