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Two Researchers Receive National Awards

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – Two researchers at Wake Forest University School of Medicine are among 58 in the country recently named recipients of “Pathway to Independence” awards from the National Institutes of Health.

The awards, of approximately $1 million each, are designed to provide an opportunity for promising postdoctoral scientists to receive support from a mentor and then to establish themselves as independent scientists. The Wake Forest recipients are Ryan Temel, Ph.D., and Deepak Deshpande, Ph.D.

The program supports awardees through two phases. The initial one- to two-year mentored phase allows investigators to complete their supervised research work, publish results, and search for an independent research position. The second independent phase, which last three to five years, will allow awardees who secure an assistant professorship or equivalent position to establish their own research program and successfully apply for an NIH grant to support their work.

“We are pleased that in the first round of this highly competitive award, two scientists at Wake Forest were recipients. This speaks highly of both these scientists and their senior mentors, as well as the overall caliber of research conducted at Wake Forest University School of Medicine,” said Sally Shumaker, Ph.D., associate dean for research.

NIH will issue between 150 and 200 awards this year and expects to issue the same number of awards for each of the following five years and to spend a total of $400 million to support the program.

Temel works under the direction of Lawrence Rudel, Ph.D., in the Department of Pathology. His project is to determine how a new class of drugs called PPAR delta agonists can increase levels of “good” cholesterol (HDL or high-density lipoprotein) in monkeys. Evidence suggests that increasing HDL may decrease the risk of heart disease. The scientists hope that learning how the drugs affect HDL may lead to the development of therapies for humans that could prevent hundreds of thousands of deaths each year from heart disease.

Temel, a graduate of Allegheny College in Meadville, Pa., completed his Ph.D. at the State University of New York at Stony Brook. He is the son of Eugene and Jill Temel of Pittsburgh.

Deshpande works in the laboratory of Raymond Penn, Ph.D., in the Center for Human Genomics. His research focuses on understanding the mechanisms of airway smooth muscle contraction and relaxation. The objective is to identify the cellular mechanisms involved in severe breathing difficulty in asthmatics and to find better ways to relax the airways. Asthma is a chronic disease that affects nearly 20 million Americans.

Deshpande, a graduate of Bangalore in India, received his Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota. He is the son of Indumati and Anant Deshpande of Mudhol, India.

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Media Contacts: Karen Richardson, krchrdsn@wfubmc.edu; or Shannon Koontz, shkoontz@wfubmc.edu, at 336-716-4587.

Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center is an academic health system comprised of North Carolina Baptist Hospital and Wake Forest University Health Sciences, which operates the university’s School of Medicine. U.S. News & World Report ranks Wake Forest University School of Medicine 30th in primary care, 41st in research and 14th in geriatrics training among the nation's medical schools. It ranks 35th in research funding by the National Institutes of Health. Almost 150 members of the medical school faculty are listed in Best Doctors in America.

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