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Bioengineer Karl Deisseroth wins NIH Transformative Research Award

Bioengineer Karl Deisseroth wins NIH Transformative Research Award

The Transformative Research Award supports exceptionally innovative or unconventional research projects with the potential to change fundamental paradigms.
September 13, 2012

Karl Deisseroth, professor or bioengineering and of psychiatry & behavioral science.

Photo: Linda Cicero / Stanford News Service

Karl Deisseroth, MD, PhD, professor of bioengineering and of psychiatry and behavioral sciences, has won a Transformative Research Award of $22.48 million over five years from the National Institutes of Health through a program designed to encourage high-risk, high-reward approaches to science.

Deisseroth studies the brain as a complex biological system, exploring the extreme challenges of gathering high-resolution local information in specific parts of the brain, while maintaining a global perspective across the entire brain system.

The award will allow his interdisciplinary team to continue working on an approach, known as CLARITY, that may someday elucidate brain circuitry abnormalities involved in complex psychiatric diseases such as depression, PTSD, drug abuse, autism and schizophrenia.

"Specifically, we've united the tools of chemical engineering, molecular genetics and optics to gather detailed and specific information from within an intact brain," said Deisseroth, "However, these tools are not limited to the brain alone. They can be applied to study any intact biological system."

This year's total award funding comes from the NIH Common Fund and multiple NIH institutes and centers, and totals approximately $155 million. NIH director Francis Collins, MD, PhD, noted that the funding "provides opportunities for innovative investigators in any area of health research to take risks when the potential impact in biomedical and behavioral science is high."

Research on CLARITY was launched through Stanford's CNC Program, an interdisciplinary effort that includes key Stanford investigators Liqun Luo, Krishna Shenoy, Marc Levoy and Philippe Mourrain.