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Physician Receives Top Award from NIH

John Bonkowsky

(SALT LAKE CITY)— Josh Bonkowsky, M.D., Ph.D, assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Utah, has received a prestigious Director's New Innovator Award from the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

The NIH awards the honor to 50 researchers across the country who pursue visionary work that exhibit the potential to transform scientific fields and speed the translation of research into improved health.

The grant is a 5-year, $1.5 million study for a novel method to understand the nervous system. Established in 2007 and handed out annually by the NIH, the New Innovator Award is intended to support exceptionally creative new investigators who propose highly innovative projects that have the potential for unusually high impact. Dr. Bonkowsky was named as a New Innovator Award recipient at the Eighth Annual NIH Director's Pioneer Award Symposium in Bethesda, Md.

"The Common Fund High Risk High Reward program 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," said NIH Director Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D.

As a clinician, Dr. Bonkowsky treats children with neurodevelopmental disorders such as epilepsy and brain injury in preterm birth, and it has been these on-going clinical interactions that helped drive his research.

Dr. Bonkowsky's project focuses on a novel genetic approach for understanding how the brain circuitry develops and functions. The research uses an innovative technology that activates gene expression when cells make contact. His team of researchers is using this innovation to map neural circuits, and characterizing nervous system reorganization following injury.

"Dr. Bonkowsky exhibits the drive for excellence and desire to find answers that makes him a true innovator. Patients throughout the world are benefiting from his work," says Ed Clark, chair of the Department of Pediatrics at University of Utah School of Medicine.

More information on the New Innovator award is at including information on this year's awardees.