Two Keck School of Medicine of USC postdoctoral scholars recently received fellowships from the prestigious A.P. Giannini Foundation. Lindsey Mork, PhD, received her fellowship based on her work with craniofacial development, and Elinne Becket, PhD, received hers for her continuing study of epigenetics and kidney cancer.
The foundation awards six to eight new fellowships annually to physician-scientists and junior researchers for work that advances biomedical science translation into preventions and cures for human diseases. Fellowships are funded for up to a maximum of three years.
Mork, whose research takes place in the lab of Gage Crump, PhD, associate professor of stem cell biology & regenerative medicine, uses zebrafish to model human genetic disorders that affect craniofacial development.
“There are many human birth defects that include facial abnormalities, but because we can’t do experiments on humans, we often aren’t sure what went wrong to give rise to those defects,” she said. “With the zebrafish, we can knock out genes linked to different disorders and look at how the mutants develop as a proxy for what may be happening in humans. This helps us discover not only what these human disease genes are doing in the embryo, but how they may interact.”
Becket works in the epigenetics lab of Peter Jones, PhD, DSc, and has a background in DNA repair and mutagenesis, with an emphasis on genomics. “As technology advances, research becomes more expensive,” she explained. “This fellowship provides funding for my research that will allow for more comprehensive analyses into the development of kidney cancer.”
Both Mork and Becket believe that the fellowships will increase their standing in the scientific community. Becket noted that the fellowship had already opened new networks of colleagues, both in academia and in biotech.
“It’s really nice to have independent support, and the confidence that there are people out there who think my work is important,” added Mork.
Amadeo Peter Giannini, a hemophilia carrier who was committed to promoting the discovery and treatment of human disease, endowed the A.P. Giannini Foundation in 1945. Since then, the foundation has provided funding to more than 700 postdoctoral biomedical researchers at California accredited medical schools.
—By Amy E. Hamaker