Moran Eye Center Researcher Dr. Kang Zhang Receives $750,000 Burroughs Wellcome Fund Award

Moran Eye Center Researcher Dr. Kang Zhang Receives $750,000 Burroughs Wellcome Fund Award

Mar 14, 2008 2:00 PM

University of Utah ophthalmologist and researcher Kang Zhang, MD, PhD, has been selected as a recipient of the Burroughs Wellcome Fund (BWF) Clinical Scientist Award in Translational Research. The $750,000 award provides Zhang with funding support for five years. Dr. Zhang is the third ophthalmologist to receive this award from the BWF. He plans to use this award to identify new genes and treatments for diabetic microvascular complications.

The prevalence of diabetes is increasing steadily. Current U.S. and international prevalence figures (18 and 171 million people respectively) are expected to increase to 30 and 366 million people, respectively, by year 2030.

“The high morbidity and significant mortality among diabetic patients largely results from increased incidence of microvascular complications such as diabetic retinopathy and nephropathy. Diabetic retinopathy is the most common cause of legal blindness in working-age Americans and diabetic nephropathy is the leading cause of kidney dialysis and transplantation”, said Dr. Zhang. “We plan to apply the latest genomic technology to identify new genes, and use this knowledge to develop new diagnostic tools and therapeutics for these devastating conditions”.

BWF named 13 translational researchers in 2008. The Fund is an independent, private foundation dedicated to support established, independent physician-scientists who are dedicated to translational research—the two-way transfer between laboratory research and patient treatment—and mentoring physician-scientist trainees. The award is highly competitive with an average award rate of 9 percent. The award provides the freedom and flexibility to explore scientific questions, apply the resulting knowledge at the bedside, and bring insights from the clinical setting back to the laboratory for further study.

BWF President, Enriqueta C. Bond, Ph.D. says this about the awards, “We hope these awards will lead to better understanding of the mechanisms of disease as well as new methods of diagnosing, treating and preventing disease.  BWF is particularly interested in supporting physician-scientists who bring novel ideas and new approaches to translational research.” Since the award’s inception in 1997, BWF has made a total of 93 awards—an investment of nearly $70 million in the careers of translational researchers.

Dr. Zhang was also recently elected to the esteemed American Society of Clinical Investigation (ASCI).  He is only the second ophthalmologist to be granted membership in that organization’s storied 97-year-old history.

Already an internationally recognized genetic researcher and clinician, Dr. Zhang completed his ophthalmology residency at Johns Hopkins University’s Wilmer Eye Institute in 1999. He received his medical degree, with magna cum laude honors from Harvard Medical School and Massechusset Institute of Technology in 1995 and his doctorate in genetics from Harvard in 1991. He is an Associate Professor of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, and the Investigator Program in Human Molecular Biology and Genetics, Eccles Institute of Human Genetics at the University of Utah.

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