Knouse earns coveted research award

Whitehead Fellow Kristin Knouse

Whitehead Fellow Kristin Knouse

Image: Gretchen Ertl/Whitehead Institute

October 2, 2018

Tags: RNA

Cambridge, Mass. -- Whitehead Fellow Kristin Knouse has received an NIH Director’s Early Independence Award. The award—part of the National Institute of Health (NIH) High-Risk, High-Reward Research program—was established in 2010 to enable exceptional junior scientists to move immediately into independent research positions. The Award is both a significant recognition and a substantial boost to a young investigator’s research program:  Nationally, just 11 investigators received an Early Independence Award in 2018; and each receive $250,000 a year for five years to advance their scientific work.

“I am honored to have received an Early Independence Award and appreciate the NIH’s dedicated support of newly independent investigators,” Knouse says. “This award will allow me to capitalize on the incredible research opportunity afforded to Whitehead Fellows and enable our lab to perform the most informative and impactful experiments in pursuit of our scientific vision.”    

Knouse became a Whitehead Fellow in June 2018. She received her undergraduate degree from Duke University and earned her M.D.-Ph.D. through the Harvard-MIT Health Sciences and Technology program. Knouse completed her doctoral work in the lab of Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor of biology and Koch Institute cancer researcher Angelika Amon—herself a former Whitehead Fellow. There, she created tools to identify and characterize large-scale genomic deletions and duplications in individual cells and revealed the importance of the tissue environment for maintaining genomic stability. Through this work she began to focus on hepatocytes, the primary cell type of the liver, which have the unique ability to re-enter the cell cycle and divide after liver injury.

Her lab at Whitehead Institute will leverage and expand on the systems she created during her doctoral work, in order to determine the mechanisms underlying the unique proliferative capacity of hepatocytes and apply these insights to novel approaches for regenerative medicine. The NIH Award will supplement Whitehead Fellows Program funding, enabling her to more quickly ramp up and expand her research program.

“This award supports outstanding young scientists with the intellect, scientific creativity, drive, and maturity to flourish independently. The NIH saw in Kristin the same depth of knowledge, skill, and innovative vision that led us to select her as a Whitehead Fellow,” says Whitehead Director David Page. “Her work has the potential to advance the field of regenerative medicine in significant ways.”

Previous Whitehead-affiliated recipients of the Early Independence Award include Whitehead Member (and former Whitehead Fellow) Sebastian Lourido and former Whitehead Fellows David Pincus and Gabriel Victora—who are now on the faculties of, respectively, the University of Chicago and the Rockefeller University.

Knouse’s NIH grant number is DP5 OD026369.

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