One of the Nation's Most Promising Young Scientists--U of U Neurobiologist Wins $1.5 million Grant to Study Brain Pathways Related to Obesity, Other Disorders

One of the Nation's Most Promising Young Scientists--U of U Neurobiologist Wins $1.5 million Grant to Study Brain Pathways Related to Obesity, Other Disorders

Oct 31, 2011 1:14 PM

SALT LAKE CITY—Saying that he and six other researchers are among the nation’s most promising early career scientists, the New York Stem Cell Foundation (NYSCF) has awarded a University of Utah neurobiologist a $1.5 million grant to study genetic and neural pathways in the brain that are related to obesity and other disorders.

Christopher T. Gregg, Ph.D., who joined the University’s School of Medicine faculty as an assistant professor of neurobiology and anatomy this year, is one of four researchers nationwide the NYSCF named as a Robertson Neuroscience Investigator. He’ll receive $300,000 annually for five years for his research, which focuses on pathways and genes in the brain that regulate feeding and motivated behaviors. Gregg said he is “delighted” to receive the award.

“We’re trying to find genetic and epigenetic pathways in the brain that regulate eating behaviors, as well as behaviors related to reward seeking and stress and anxiety,” he said. “By looking at those pathways we get new insights into obesity (in both children and adults), bulimia and anorexia, depression, anxiety, and addiction disorders.”

 Marc Tessier-Lavigne, Ph.D., president of The Rockefeller University, chaired the Neuroscience Investigator Program selection committee. “These are scientists who are changing our understanding of how the brain works and will be the future leaders in neuroscience research,” he said in a news release.

 Monica L. Vetter, Ph.D., professor and chair of the Department of Neurobiology and Anatomy in the U of U School of Medicine, said the award is fitting recognition of the “remarkable talent and potential” the department saw in Gregg when he was hired.

“Chris is pioneering research to understand the epigenetic regulation of brain function and feeding behavior, which has important implications for understanding obesity,” Vetter said.

 “This award is a tremendous opportunity for Chris to launch his research program and be truly creative and innovative in his work.” 

 The Robertson Neuroscience Investigator award follows another major accolade Gregg has received. In 2010, he was awarded the Grand Prize in the annual international competition for The Eppendorf & Science Prize for Neurobiology. That award recognized his research on how the parental origin of a gene affects the way it’s expressed in both the developing and mature brains of their offspring.

 Along with Gregg, three other researchers, one each from M.I.T., the University of California, San Diego, and The Rockefeller University, were named Robertson Neuroscience Investigators. In addition to the neuroscience investigators, the NYSCF also awarded three researchers $1.5 million grants as Robertson Stem Cell Investigators.

 Susan L. Solomon, CEO of the NYSCF, announced the award recipients on Oct. 11 in Manhattan. “These early career scientists represent some of the world’s most gifted minds,” she said in a news release. “This funding will support them at a critical juncture in their careers as they focus on research that has the potential to accelerate the path from bench to bedside.”

Established in 2005, the NYSCF is dedicated to accelerating cures for major diseases through stem cell research.

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