Last month I moderated our annual retreat with the NIH Scientific Directors, those individuals tasked with leading their Institute or Center (IC)-based intramural research program. We were joined by many of the IC Clinical Directors. And this year we decided to do something a little different: listen to a series of talks about exciting, new IRP research.
For gene therapy research, the perennial challenge has been devising a reliable way to insert safely a working copy of a gene into relevant cells that can take over for a faulty one. But with the recent discovery of powerful gene editing tools, the landscape of opportunity is starting to change. Instead of threading the needle through the cell membrane with a bulky gene, researchers are starting to design ways to apply these tools in the nucleus—to edit out the disease-causing error in a gene and allow it to work correctly.
Yasmine Belkaid, chief of the Mucosal Immunology Section in the NIAID Laboratory of Parasitic Diseases, has won the Sanofi–Institut Pasteur 2016 International Mid-Career Award for “outstanding research in the life sciences…contributing to progress in global public health,” announced on December 13, 2016 in Paris.
As a theoretician in the lab of Dr. Ralph Nossal (NICHD), I use mathematical modeling to study how cells get to places in the body. Most of my time is focused on completing clearly written goals born from project plans. A system of timers, project plans, and goals keeps me on track to do what I need to do so that I can get back to the fun part of my job that I would happily do for free.
This month we’ll be looking at lesser-known early women scientists at the National Institutes of Health. They did solid work and were leaders in their field, but for some reason, they aren’t well-known.
At the beginning of every episode of the sci-fi series Star Trek, William Shatner repeated the words, “Space: the final frontier.” However, in all of Star Trek’s 79 episodes, Captain James T. Kirk and crew never encountered anything like the number and diversity of species that exists within the human microbiome.
I have been thinking a lot recently about how the tools we use in our work have improved so dramatically in the last few decades and how this is mostly down to the frequently disparaged study of microbes. While everyone can get behind studying bacteria that cause life-threatening diseases like typhoid fever and cholera, I think that it is often harder to convince people of the value of studying ordinary and sometimes obscure bacteria that do not directly affect human health. However, over the years, such studies have revolutionized many aspects of our lives.