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Bick receives NIH Director’s Early Independence Award

Oct. 6, 2020, 10:09 AM


by Bill Snyder

Alexander Bick, MD, PhD, a new faculty member in the Division of Genetic Medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, has received a 2020 National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director’s Early Independence Award.

Alexander Bick, MD, PhD

The award (# OD029586) will provide $250,000 in direct research costs annually for up to five years. It is part of the NIH Common Fund’s High-Risk, High-Reward Research Program, which supports “highly innovative and unusually impactful biomedical or behavioral research proposed by extraordinarily creative scientists.”

Bick, an assistant professor of Medicine and investigator in the Division of Genetic Medicine and the Vanderbilt Genetics Institute, is the first Vanderbilt University faculty member to receive an Early Independence Award and one of 13 recipients of the award this year.

Established in 2011, the award enables exceptional junior scientists who have recently received their doctoral degree or completed their medical residency to skip traditional post-doctoral training and move immediately into independent research positions.

“I am humbled and honored to be selected for the NIH director’s High-Risk, High-Reward research program,” Bick said. “The NIH Director’s Early Independence Award will enable my lab to develop innovative methods to decipher clonal hematopoiesis, which is present in more than 10% of older adults and causes multiple diseases of aging.

“I look forward to translating what we learn to help our patients live longer and healthier lives. I am grateful to the Department of Medicine for giving me the opportunity to join such a distinguished community of investigators at VUMC,” he said.

Clonal hematopoiesis refers to the age-related acquisition of somatic mutations in blood stem cells.

Bick earned his MD and PhD in Genetics from Harvard, and joined the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine faculty this summer after completing his residency in Internal Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital with a clinical focus on personalized medicine.

Last month he received another honor, a Burroughs Wellcome Fund (BWF) Career Award for Medical Scientists.

“Alex is a great addition to our science community and our thinking about patients,” said Dan Roden, MDCM, Senior Vice President for Personalized Medicine at VUMC, founding director of the Oates Institute for Experimental Therapeutic and Sam L. Clark, MD, PhD Chair in the School of Medicine.

“In the short time since his arrival, he has started collaborations across multiple scientific communities — not only investigators interested in clonal hematopoiesis but also in the new Genetics and Therapeutics Clinic and the next phase of the NIH’s eMERGE (Electronic Medical Records and Genomics) network,” Roden said.

The Early Independence Award is one of four awards supported by the High-Risk, High-Reward Research Program. NIH Director Francis Collins, MD, PhD, announced 85 new grants today.

“The breadth of innovative science put forth by the 2020 cohort of early career and seasoned investigators is impressive and inspiring,” Collins said in a news release. “I am confident that their work will propel biomedical and behavioral research and lead to improvements in human health.”

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