The Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) has awarded an Early Career Award to Nicholas Boulis, MD, assistant professor of neurosurgery at Emory University School of Medicine.
HHMI is a non-profit medical research organization that invests in the support, training and education of the nation's most creative and promising scientists. Dr. Boulis and the 19 other awardees selected this year each will receive $375,000 over a five-year period.
Dr. Boulis, a neurosurgeon, is working to develop alternative treatments for disorders such as pain, spasticity and epilepsy, which are currently modulated by implanting electrodes in the brain. He is striving to create methods to manipulate neural activity by delivering genes directly to neurons. Dr. Boulis is currently developing viral vectors for control of pain and spasticity in spinal cord neurons, as well as epilepsy and movement disorders in brain neurons.
"The control of neuronal overactivity through gene delivery could eliminate the need for implanted devices, which are vulnerable to malfunction and infections," explains Dr. Boulis.
Long a supporter of physician-scientists, the HHMI has decided to focus expanded resources on a cadre of physicians who demonstrated an early interest in research by taking time off from medical school to spend a year or more in the lab.
"Physician-scientists are uniquely positioned to translate research discoveries into direct benefits for patients," says Peter J. Bruns, vice president for grants and special programs at HHMI. "The research these talented young scientists are doing has the potential to have a tremendous impact on public health."
Dr. Boulis graduated summa cum laude from Yale University with distinction in biology and philosophy. He graduated magna cum laude from Harvard Medical School, winning the Harold Lamport Biomedical Research Award. He completed residency training at the University of Michigan Medical Center and comes to Emory from the Cleveland Clinic, where he spent six years as an expert in movement disorders, pain, and peripheral nerve surgery in addition to directing his laboratory.
The Department of Neurosurgery is an integral part of the Comprehensive Neuroscience Center, one of five new centers of excellence in Emory's Woodruff Health Sciences Center. Each of the centers is developing a new model for patient-centered care as well as distinctive health services based on discovery, innovation and measurable impact on patients' health.
For more information about the HHMI Early Career Awards, see http://www.hhmi.org/news/20070815.html.