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Researchers, alums receive NIH New Innovator Awards

Amnon Koren, assistant professor of molecular biology and genetics, has won a National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director's New Innovator Award.

Amnon Koren

Koren’s research explores how mutation rates vary from one individual to another. The timing of DNA replication is one of the main factors that affects mutation rates, and his work has shown the replication timing program varies from one person to another at hundreds of loci along the chromosomes.

Koren’s grant project will demonstrate that due to genetic variation in DNA replication timing, every person carries mutation patterns that are unique and encoded in their genomes. Koren and his colleagues will use innovative experimental and computational techniques to create a database of DNA replication timing in thousands of people and in several cell types. They will use the database to describe a new form of human genetic variation and identify the genetic underpinnings of DNA replication timing.

“These discoveries have the potential to influence the understanding, diagnosis and personalized treatment of mutation-driven diseases, namely genetic diseases and cancer,” Koren said.

Koren won the award alongside Eftychia Apostolou, assistant professor of molecular biology in medicine at Weill Cornell Medicine, and two alumni: Parijat Bhatnagar, Ph.D. ‘07, program director for cell-based medicine in the Biosciences Division at SRI International, and Nikhil U. Nair ’03, assistant professor of chemical and biological engineering at Tufts University. The four among 48 scientists nationwide who received $1.5 million awards, which support early-career investigators pursuing bold, new approaches to some of the greatest biomedical challenges.

This story originally appeared in the Cornell Chronicle.