April 28, 2006

Skaar joins ranks of Searle Scholars

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Eric Skaar, Ph.D., M.P.H.

Skaar joins ranks of Searle Scholars

Eric P. Skaar, Ph.D., M.P.H., assistant professor of Microbiology and Immunology was recently named as a 2006 Searle Scholar. The award provides $240,000 over three years to support Skaar's research.

Skaar is one of 15 recently appointed assistant professors selected to receive the awards from 173 nominees representing more than 130 universities and research foundations. Final selection of the scholars was based on recommendations of a 12-person scientific advisory board of distinguished scientists and research leaders.

In selecting the scholars, the board identified individuals who have demonstrated innovative research with the potential for making significant contributions to biological research over an extended period of time.

Skaar studies the pathogenesis of the bacterium Staphylococcus aureus, a major human pathogen that is a leading cause of skin infections and food poisoning. Some strains of the bug have developed resistance to multiple antibiotics, making these infections tough to fight and often fatal.

This award will help Skaar identify bacterial proteins that could provide targets for designing new antibiotics. In this research, he is focusing on proteins that help protect the bacterium from being devoured by neutrophils, one of the body's key immune cells.

Skaar's work has suggested that these bacterial proteins are produced in response to the influx of neutrophils to infected sites, or abscesses. With the support of the Searle funds, Skaar plans to identify these proteins and use imaging mass spectrometry techniques to visualize their distribution in infected tissue.

“It is a tremendous honor to be chosen as a Searle Scholar and included among so many outstanding scientists,” Skaar said. “I am sure that a primary factor in selecting me for this award was the exceptional support provided through the Proteomics Core and Tissue Imaging and Biofluids Core here at Vanderbilt.”

The Searle Scholars Program is administered by Kinship Foundation in Northbrook, Ill. The funds supporting the awards were established under the wills of John G. and Frances C. Searle. John Searle was the president of G.D. Searle & Co., a research-based pharmaceutical company. The Searles requested that some proceeds of their estates be used to support research in medicine, chemistry and biological science.

Since the program began in 1981, more than $73,380,000 in grants has supported 408 scholars, including four from Vanderbilt University – Warren F. Beck, Ph.D. (1992), Albert H. Beth, Ph.D. (1982), Kenneth Catania, Ph.D. (2001), and Kathleen L. Gould, Ph.D. (1992).