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For Immediate Release

Two Children’s Hospital Scientists Receive First-Ever Innovation Award To Fund High-Impact, High-Risk Research

Scientific program looks for research that leads to changes in the field or clinical practice

Two Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC scientists have been selected as the first two recipients of Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC’s Scientific Program’s Innovation Awards. They will receive $150,000 a year for two years.

Edward Prochownik, MD, PhD, the Paul C. Gaffney Professor of Pediatric Hematology/ Oncology, and Stephen Pak, PhD, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics of the Newborn Division, have been awarded the honor. The Scientific Program launched the Innovation Awards to help stimulate pediatric investigators’ highly innovative basic and clinical research projects still deemed too risky for funding by the National Institutes of Health. The Scientific Program looks for high-risk, high-impact research that likely will lead to changes in the field or changes in clinical practice. The study must include multidisciplinary, collaborative research with other programs at Children’s Hospital, UPMC and the University of Pittsburgh.

Dr. Prochownik’s proposal is based on an exciting recent discovery about how the c-Myc oncogene promotes cancer. The Prochownik lab identified, for the first time, that the glycoprotein Ibƒ¿, previously known for its involvement in platelet aggregation and activation as a subunit of the von Willebrand’s factor receptor, is a key mediator of the genomic instability that accompanies malignant transformation in response to activation of c-Myc. In collaboration with Eric Lagasse, MD, associate professor of Pathology and director of the Cancer Stem Cell Center at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, and William Saunders, MD, of the Department of Biology and Biological Sciences at the University of Pittsburgh, Dr. Prochownik proposes to characterize the mechanism by which this glycoprotein produces genomic instability – ultimately providing the background for novel anti-cancer treatment strategies.

Stephen Pak, PhD, is working with a team of investigators on a novel high-throughput drug screen for treatment of alpha-1-antitrypsin deficiency. Alpha-1-antitrypsin deficiency is the most common genetic cause of liver disease in children. Dr. Pak has developed – with Gary A. Silverman, MD, PhD, chief of the Division of Newborn Medicine, and David H. Perlmutter, MD, physician-in-chief and scientific director at Children’s Hospital – a model of alpha-1-antitrypsin deficiency in C. elegans that is ideally suited for automated, robotic assays that can detect reversal of the disease phenotype in the worm model. Libraries containing thousands of potential drugs will be screened and candidates then studied for disease-modifying effects in mammalian models in vivo. The proposal takes advantage of the new University of Pittsburgh Molecular Library Screening Center and Drug Discovery Unit in collaboration with Paul Johnston, PhD, Department of Pharmacology, and John Lazo, PhD, chair of the department.

A panel of experts selected by the Scientific Program reviewed numerous outstanding proposals for Fiscal Year 2008.

Learn more about research at Children’s Hospital.


Marc Lukasiak, 412-692-7919 or 412-692-5016,
Melanie Finnigan, 412-692-5502 or 412-692-5016,

Last Update
February 12, 2008
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Last Update
February 12, 2008