UW News

September 27, 2007

Horwitz receives NIH Pioneer Award

Dr. Marshall Horwitz, UW professor of medicine, pathology and genome sciences, is a 2007 recipient of the National Institutes of Health Director’s Pioneer Award. He is one of only 12 scientists to receive the award this year.

NIH Director Elias Zerhouni announced the recipients of the $2.5 million Pioneer Awards and the 29 recipients of the $1.5 million New Innovator Awards at the NIH Director’s Pioneer Award Symposium last week. The awards will cover direct costs over a five-year period. Both programs are part of the NIH Roadmap for Medical Research initiative designed to transform the nation’s medical research capabilities and speed the movement of research discoveries from the bench to the bedside.

“Novel ideas and new investigators are essential ingredients for scientific progress, and the creative scientists we recognize with NIH Director’s Pioneer Awards and NIH Director’s New Innovator Awards are well-positioned to make significant and potentially transformative discoveries in a variety of areas,” Zerhouni said in a statement.

NIH selected the award recipients through special application and evaluation processes that engaged 262 experts from the scientific community in identifying the most highly competitive individuals in each pool. The Advisory Committee to the Director performed the final review and made recommendations to Zerhouni based on the evaluations by outside experts and programmatic considerations.

Horwitz will use his Pioneer Award to chart cell lineages by tracking mutations in order to better understand how stem cells contribute to development and cancer.

Commenting on the award, Horwitz first paid tribute to his research collaborator Steve Salipante.

“The work we’re doing with this award represents a true collaboration with a one-of-a-kind M.D./Ph.D. student, Steve Salipante, who’s just as much, if not more, responsible for bringing this to fruition,” Horwitz said. “[The fact] that we get students of Steve’s caliber is a real measure of the youthful intellectual environment that draws creative people to Seattle and, especially, our university.”

He said the award exemplifies the spirit of discovery and collaboration.

“The award reaffirms my faith in scientific peer review and embodies all that I love about America, its democratization of science, and the entrepreneurial spirit. While the NIH did look at track record, too, it was a competition —- anybody could apply —- sort of in the spirit of “American Idol” or “Iron Chef,” Horwitz said. “You’ve got to love that, because, at least for me, science is not just about finding beauty and truth, but it’s mad pursuits, putting it all on the line time and again, and, in the end, creating new things, whether they be physical technology or wholly new intellectual constructs, however ethereal.”

In addition to the NIH Pioneer Award, Horwitz’s previous honors include the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers; clinical research scholar awards from the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation, and the Burroughs Wellcome Fund; and the UW Fialkow Scholar Award for outstanding research, teaching, clinical work, and academic citizenship.