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Hopkins Children's Researcher Wins NIH Innovator Award for TB Work

MEDIA CONTACT: Ekaterina Pesheva
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September 24, 2009
Sanjay Jain 2009

Sanjay Jain, M.D. - Sanjay Jain, M.D. - NIH Director's New Innovator Awardee 2009

Johns Hopkins Children’s Center infectious disease specialist Sanjay Jain, M.D., has earned a New Innovator Award from the National Institutes of Health, which comes with $1.5 million in direct funding over five years to support high-impact novel research by investigators in the early stages of their careers.

Jain, one of 55 Innovator Award recipients, is already known for his design of an imaging technique to monitor in real time the behavior of the Mycobacterium tuberculosis in test animals. Use of this technology is expected to shed light on how the TB bacterium evades drugs and hides out in the body for decades, contributing to the disease’s virulence and persistence in humans.

VIDEO: Sanjay Jain, M.D., discusses his TB ressearch and the NIH New Innovator Award 

Another Hopkins scientist, Jin Zhang, Ph.D., associate professor of pharmacology, is the recipient of the NIH Director’s Pioneer Award, which comes with $2.5 million in direct funding over five years, to develop a novel tool for venturing inside the cell and manipulating single molecules in their “native” habitat. Zhang is one of 18 Pioneer award winners this year.

Jain’s monitoring system works by infecting animals with “designer” strains of TB, developed by Hopkins investigators to absorb radioactive tracing chemicals. The chemicals light up the germ and any infected tissues in the lung, allowing an image to be captured by CT, PET and SPECT scanners. The resulting pictures allow scientists to detect the exact location of active bacterial reservoirs. New “designer” strains to be developed as part of the project will help scientists pinpoint dormant bacterial hideouts containing sleeper cells, which do not cause active disease but of which there are 2 billion cases globally. TB kills 1.7 million people worldwide each year, and 9.2 million people develop active disease, according to estimates from the World Health Organization.

If some version of this technique proves safe and effective, it would give doctors a way to get rapid feedback on disease activity and drug response.
“This award is not only a tremendous honor but it comes at a time when research funding is critically needed, yet not that easy to get,” Jain said. “It will help us continue our research.”

Born in Halifax, Canada, Jain grew up in India, where he received a medical degree from All India Institute of Medical Sciences in New Delhi. Jain trained in pediatrics at Penn State Children’s Hospital, Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, and at Tufts University School of Medicine. He was a clinical fellow in pediatric infectious diseases at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine before joining its faculty. Since 2006, Jain has been an assistant professor of pediatrics in the Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases. He is director of the Center for Infection and Inflammation Imaging at Johns Hopkins and a member of the Center for TB Research.

This year’s awards, totaling $348 million, make the largest number of Pioneer and New Innovator awards in the Programs’ history, the NIH reports. Investigators who received the first Pioneer Awards in 2004 have completed their projects and details on their progress are available at http://nihroadmap.nih.gov/pioneer/Profiles04/index.aspx.

 “The appeal of the Pioneer, New Innovator, and now the T-R01 programs, is that investigators are encouraged to challenge the status quo with innovative ideas, while being given the necessary resources to test them," said NIH Director Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D. "The fact that we continue to receive such strong proposals for funding through the programs reflects the wealth of creative ideas in science today,” said NIH Director Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D.

Founded in 1912 as the children's hospital at Johns Hopkins, the Johns Hopkins Children's Center offers one of the most comprehensive pediatric medical programs in the country, with more than 92,000 patient visits and nearly 9,000 admissions each year. The Johns Hopkins Children's Center is Maryland's largest children's hospital and the only state-designated Trauma Service and Burn Unit for pediatric patients. It has recognized Centers of Excellence in dozens of pediatric subspecialties, including allergy, cardiology, cystic fibrosis, gastroenterology, nephrology, neurology, neurosurgery, oncology, pulmonary, and transplant. For more information, visit www.hopkinschildrens.org.