Shaw Scientist Award advances research at UW-Madison, UW-Milwaukee

Milwaukee, WI - May 30, 2012 - The influenza virus. Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases. Cancer. Young scientists who are working to advance research around these very critical areas received significant funding from the Greater Milwaukee Foundation's Shaw Scientist Program to continue their cutting-edge work.

The Foundation selected Xiaohua Peng, an assistant professor in University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee's Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry; Andrew Mehle, an assistant professor in University of Wisconsin-Madison's Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology; and David Pagliarini, assistant professor in UW-Madison's Department of Biochemistry, with the 2012 Shaw Scientist Awards. The award, a $200,000 unrestricted prize for scientists at UW-Madison and UW-Milwaukee, provides needed support to young scientists engaged in groundbreaking research in the fields of genetics, cell biology and cancer research at critical stages in their careers.

"It has become increasingly challenging for scientists to obtain extramural funding for their research, and this is especially true for young faculty," said Paula Traktman, chair of the Shaw Scientist Advisory Panel and Walter Schroeder professor and chair of the Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics at the Medical College of Wisconsin. "The funding provided through the Shaw Scientist program is unrestricted and flexible, which allows these exceptional scientists to build research programs, establish track records, and pursue high risk/high impact projects."

2012 Shaw Scientists

Andrew Mehle

Andrew Mehle's research focuses on how the influenza virus interacts with human cells. He specifically is concerned with discovering why avian influenza viruses do not normally replicate or spread efficiently in human cells, and what changes are needed in the virus and the host to establish a successful infection. That knowledge and understanding is believed to allow the medical community to develop new antiviral therapies and to better predict, and perhaps prevent, influenza outbreaks.

Mehle graduated with a bachelor's degree in biology from Villanova University and received his Ph.D. in virology from Harvard University. He was a postdoctoral fellow at the University of California-Berkeley, where he studied the regulation of the influenza virus polymerase complex. In 2009, he was awarded a prestigious NIH Pathway to Independence Award.

David Pagliarini

Dave Pagliarini studies the function of mitochondria, which are a main hub for cellular metabolism and energy production. When mitochondria do not function properly, it can lead to a number of various diseases including Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, type II diabetes and cancer. A better understanding of how mitochondria works can lead to the creation of new therapeutic strategies to treat these widespread disorders.

Pagliarini received his bachelor's of science degree from the University of Notre Dame and a Ph.D. from the University of California-San Diego. He completed his post doctorate work in biochemistry and systems biology at Harvard Medical School. He has received a number of national honors, including a Searle Scholar Award and a Glenn Foundation Award. In additional to running his own laboratory, Pagliarini is co-director of the Mitochondrial Protein Partnership, a National Institute of General Medical Science-funded consortium that studies the role of mitochondria in human health and diseases.

Xiaohua Peng

Xiaohua Peng exploits two distinctive features of cancer cells to develop drugs that target tumors but cause less damage to surrounding healthy cells. Two compounds she has developed areactivated by the increased oxidative stress found in tumor cells to selectively release a chemotherapy agent. Because hypoxia is also characteristic of cancer cells, Peng is working on drugs that induce damage to the cancer cells' DNA under conditions of little or no oxygen.

Peng received a bachelor's degree from China's Nanchang University and a Ph.D. from the University of Osnabrueck in Germany. As a postdoctoral fellow at Johns Hopkins University, she studied DNA damage and repair. In 2010, Peng received a research award from the National Institutes of Health.

A five-member advisory panel, with scientists representing major U.S. research institutions, selects the Shaw Scientists each year. The awards program started in 1982 thanks to a $4.3 million bequest from Dorothy Shaw, widow of James Shaw, a prominent Milwaukee attorney. In addition to $2 million in special grants, Shaw's fund has given out more than $11 million to 60 scientists for research that might one day lead to new drugs and treatments to counteract diseases.

About the Greater Milwaukee Foundation

The Greater Milwaukee Foundation is a family of more than 1,100 individual charitable funds, each created by donors to serve the local charitable causes of their choice. Grants from these funds serve people throughout Milwaukee, Waukesha, Ozaukee and Washington counties and beyond. Started in 1915, the Foundation is one of the oldest and largest community foundations in the world.


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