UNC Professor Named Pew Scholar
|Saskia B. Nehir, Ph.D. Photo courtesy of the University of North Carolina.|
By Jeremy Summers, NCBiotech Writer
Saskia B. Neher, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the biochemistry and biophysics department at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, has been named one of this year’s Pew Scholars in the Biomedical Sciences.
The prestigious award, given out by the Pew Charitable Trusts, recognizes early-career scientists whose research points to important medical breakthroughs.
Neher’s research focuses on the molecular breakdown of fat and the proteins that activate this process.
Molecules known as lipases help to break down fat so the body can use it as fuel or store it for later use. Lipases are regulated by two proteins that activate and disable this process.
When defects occur in lipoprotein lipases (LPL), a person is at an increased risk for cardiovascular disease.
Neher has discovered new evidence of how the activating protein functions. Her research is expected to produce new targets for treating or preventing cardiovascular disease.
“Pew is pleased to provide this country’s most ambitious and dedicated scientists with timely funding that enables them to explore novel areas of investigation early in their careers, at what may be the most inventive and creative period in their research,” said Rebecca W. Rimel, president and CEO of The Pew Charitable Trusts.
Neher is one of eight women, out of 22 promising scientists, to receive the distinction this year. She becomes UNC’s eleventh recipient of the award.
This year’s field consisted of 134 eligible candidates, nominated by invited institutions, to select faculty members whose work demonstrates excellence and innovation.
The Pew Scholars Program has funded over 500 scholars, totaling more than $125 million, since it began in 1985. Awardees receive $240,000 over a four-year period to advance their research without restriction. Past recipients include several MacArthur Fellows and three Nobel Prize winners.