Yanik, Lu are among five MIT researchers winning major NIH grant awards

September 20, 2011

The National Institutes of Health announced Tuesday, Sept. 20, that it is awarding 79 grants totaling $143.8 million to innovative scientists across the country, including five MIT researchers. The grants bolster research that will potentially drive the biomedical field forward, and speed therapies from the bench top to the clinic.

Two of the five NIH grant recipients from MIT include EECS Department faculty members Mehmet Fatih Yanik ’99, MEng ’00, associate professor of electrical engineering, and Timothy Lu ’03, MEng ’03, PhD ’08, assistant professor of electrical engineering.

The grant money comes from the NIH Common Fund, enacted into law by Congress in 2006, to specifically support innovative and risk-taking research programs. The awards are divided into three categories: the NIH Director’s Pioneer, New Innovator and Transformative Research Projects awards. (Read more in the MIT News Office announcement).

M. Fatih Yanik, Associate Professor of Electrical Engineering and principal investigator at RLE, received the NIH Director's Pioneer Award ($4.3 Million in total), the most prestigious award given by the National Institutes of Health. Yanik is the youngest recipient. He also became the first person in NIH history to receive all top NIH awards: the NIH Director's New Innovator Award, the NIH EUREKA Award, the NIH Transformative Research Award, and now the NIH Director's Pioneer Award with work ranging from high-throughput drug discovery to neuronal tissue regeneration, and creation of living neuronal networks.

Yanik's goal in the Pioneer Project is to make patient-specific human tissues that can be clinically used for regenerative therapy of neuronal diseases, disorders, aging, and injuries. For this application, Yanik's High-Throughput Neurotechnology Group, is developing a breakthrough technology to decipher billions of combinatorial possibilities of all transcriptional factors in the human genome to reprogram human stem cells to specific transplantable tissues without any genetic modification. Yanik's lab is also working on animal studies to demonstrate successful transplantation and regrowth of human neurons in vivo.


Timothy K. Lu, Assistant Professor of Electrical Engineering, Associate Member of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard was awarded the NIH Director’s New Innovator Award, which supports promising new investigators with highly innovative projects.

Heading the Synthetic Biology Group in RLE, Lu will use the grant to continue his work in synthetic biology and nanotechnology, creating platforms for studying, manipulating and eventually treating amyloid-associated diseases, including Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease; and for his work on bacterial biofilms.

Tim received his undergraduate and M.Eng. degrees from MIT in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. He obtained an M.D. from Harvard Medical School and Ph.D. from the Harvard-MIT Health Sciences and Technology Medical Engineering and Medical Physics Program. Tim has won the Lemelson-MIT Student Prize, Grand Prize in the National Inventor Hall of Fame's Collegiate Inventors Competition, and the Leon Reznick Memorial Prize for "outstanding performance in research" from Harvard Medical School. He has also been selected as a Kavli Fellow by the National Academy of Sciences and a Siebel Scholar.

Congratulations Fatih and Tim!