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Vanderbilt’s Terker wins NIH Director’s Early Independence Award

Oct. 4, 2022, 11:05 AM

Andrew Terker, MD, PhD

by Bill Snyder

Andrew Terker, MD, PhD, a physician scientist at Vanderbilt University Medical Center who is committed to advancing the understanding and treatment of kidney disease, has received a 2022 National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director’s Early Independence Award.

The award 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 “exceptionally creative scientists pursuing highly innovative research with the potential for broad impact.”

Terker, assistant professor in the Department of Medicine’s Division of Nephrology and Hypertension, is the third Vanderbilt University faculty member to receive an Early Independence Award, and one of 14 recipients of the award this year.

The Early Independence Award is one of four awards in the High-Risk, High-Reward Research Program. The others are the NIH Director’s Pioneer Award, the Transformative Research Award and the New Innovator Award. One hundred three research grants, totaling more than $200 million, were awarded this year.

This unique cohort of scientists will transform what is known in the biological and behavioral world,” Acting NIH Director Lawrence Tabak, DDS, PhD, said in a news release. “We are privileged to support this innovative science.”

A 2017 graduate of the MD/PhD Medical Scientist Training Program at Oregon Health and Science University in Portland, Terker came to VUMC for his residency training and was Chief Harrison Fellow in the Department of Medicine’s Physician Scientist Training Program and Harrison Society.

Earlier this year, he and Juan Pablo Arroyo, MD, PhD, also an assistant professor in the Division of Nephrology and Hypertension, received Emerging Generation Awards from the American Society for Clinical Investigation in recognition of their excellence as physician scientists engaged in immersive research early in their careers.

Terker currently works in the laboratory of Raymond Harris, MD, Ann and Roscoe R. Robinson Professor of Nephrology, to better understand the mechanisms underlying the pathogenesis of both acute and chronic kidney disease. Since coming to VUMC, he has contributed to 18 scientific publications.

“It is wonderful to receive this award, and be able to start my lab here,” Terker said. “It’s always a privilege to do research for a job. I am excited to get to work and see what discoveries we can make to help patients with kidney disease.

“This would not have been possible,” he continued, without the support of his physician-scientist mentors, including Harris, Division Director T. Alp Ikizler, MD, the Catherine McLaughlin Hakim Professor of Vascular Biology, and Kimryn Rathmell, MD, PhD, the Hugh Jackson Morgan Professor of Medicine and chair of the department, “and Vanderbilt as a whole.”

“It has been an honor to have served as Andy’s primary mentor during his fellowship research training,” Harris said. “This well-deserved award is a testament to his accomplishments to date, and his enormous potential for continued success.”

Previous recipients of the Early Independence Award from Vanderbilt are:

  • Alexander Bick, MD, PhD, assistant professor of Medicine, and an investigator in the Division of Genetic Medicine and the Vanderbilt Genetics Institute (2020); and
  • Katherine Aboud, PhD, MFA, research assistant professor in Special Education at Vanderbilt Peabody College, and an NIH Outstanding Scholar of Neuroscience (2021).

Since 2007, nine Vanderbilt scientists have won the NIH Director’s New Innovator Award, which supports “exceptionally creative early-career investigators who propose innovative, high-impact projects.” The most recent recipients, in 2021, were Breann Brown, PhD, and Will Wan, PhD, both assistant professors of Biochemistry.

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