Leah Cowen awarded Genzyme Fellowship

September 21, 2005

Tags: Lindquist LabAwards + Announcements

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (September 21, 2005) - Leah Cowen, a postdoctoral fellow in the lab of Whitehead Member Susan Lindquist, has been selected by a Whitehead committee to receive the Genzyme Postdoctoral Fellowship at Whitehead Institute. The $90,000 award, sponsored by the Cambridge-based biotech company, completely funds Cowen's postdoctoral position-including all expenses-for one year.

Cowen's research focuses on the mechanisms by which opportunistic microbes, such as pathogenic fungi, evolve. Such work can form the basis for creating better strategies for therapeutically combating life-threatening fungal infections. So far, she's been investigating a particular protein called Hsp90. This protein is part of a larger class of heat-shock proteins (HSPs), which are crucial for responding to environmental stress. Cowen is interested in how Hsp90 enables fungi to evolve a variety of new traits, such as drug resistance.

"My future research," says Cowen, "will focus on the evolution of host-pathogen interactions and Hsp90's role in this ubiquitous process."

Cowen received her PhD in 2002 from the University of Toronto in Ontario, Canada. For her thesis she researched the emergence of drug-resistant fungi using population genetics, evolutionary biology, and genomics.

In addition to authoring ten research papers, she has received a number of grants and honors. From 1997 to 1999, and again from 2000 to 2002, she received a postgraduate scholarship from Canada's Natural Sciences & Engineering Research Council. From 2000 to 2001 she was awarded a graduate fellowship from the Mycological Society of America. And currently her postdoctoral research at Whitehead is funded in part by the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation.

"When Leah came to my lab two years ago, I knew to expect some great things from her," says Lindquist. "Still, I continue to be amazed by the depth of her insight and her ability to accomplish very ambitious experiments with aplomb. She is also very involved in Whitehead programs-a real asset to our community."

This is the second year that Genzyme has partnered with Whitehead in this fashion. Last year Konrad Hochedlinger from the Jaenisch lab received this fellowship.

Written by David Cameron.

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