Dr. Peter P. Reese and Dr. Georgios Skiniotis: NIDDK-Supported Scientists Receive Presidential Award
Two scientists supported by the NIDDK have received the 2011 Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE). PECASE is awarded annually to scientists and engineers who, while early in their research careers, have demonstrated the pursuit of innovative research and outstanding scientific leadership. Among the recipients were two NIDDK extramural grantees—Peter P. Reese, M.D., M.S.C.E., and Georgios Skiniotis, Ph.D. In addition to the NIDDK supported recipients, 18 other scientists supported by the NIH received the award for their scientific achievements; the NIH has now funded 213 PECASE recipients since the award’s inception in 1996. PECASE is the most prestigious award given in the United States to scientists at the outset of their independent research careers.
Dr. Reese, an Assistant Professor of Medicine and Epidemiology at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, received a 2011 PECASE award in recognition of his contributions to organ transplant research. His primary research focus is in the development of effective strategies to increase access to kidney transplantation. The growing and unmet need for kidney transplants is driven by the rising prevalence of end-stage renal disease (ESRD) in the United States. ESRD impairs quality of life, decreases survival, and is increasingly common among older adults. A shortage of available organs for transplantation has driven strong interest in providing kidney transplants to the patients who benefit the most. Dr. Reese’s novel approach will evaluate the use of the patient’s functional status—a measure of the ability to complete important daily activities—as a tool to predict which patients derive the greatest survival benefit from a kidney transplant.
Dr. Skiniotis, a Pew Scholar in the Biomedical Sciences and Research Assistant Professor at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, received a 2011 PECASE award for his innovative work using electron microscopy to study the structure of signaling cell surface receptors, such as the leptin hormone receptor and the β2-adrenoceptor. To detect and respond to signaling molecules, cells often employ specialized proteins on their surface termed “receptors.” Once a signaling molecule binds, the receptor initiates a cascade of events that results in a cellular response. One of the main areas of research of Dr. Skiniotis’s laboratory is on the leptin signaling pathway and its role in the regulation of mammalian energy balance and body weight. The binding of leptin to the leptin receptor on the cell surface results in the intracellular activation of other signaling proteins, which, in turn, regulate a number of physiological signaling cascades. Dr. Skiniotis and his team have been using electron microscopy techniques to study the molecular architecture of the leptin/leptin receptor complex to understand how the leptin signal is transmitted to the intracellular space. A mechanistic understanding of this complex will inform the design of therapeutic strategies targeting the leptin receptor complex.