$1.5M National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director’s New Innovator Award

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Prof. Danielle Schmitt

Professor Danielle Schmitt receives prestigious $1.5 million New Innovator Award from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) High-Risk, High-Reward Research program. 

The NIH Director’s New Innovator Award, disbursed over a five-year period, is from the NIH Common Fund’s High-Risk, High-Reward Program. Established in 2007, the program supports early-career investigators pursuing highly innovative research with the potential to have a broad impact on biomedical, behavioral, or social sciences. See a full list of the 2023 recipients here.

Schmitt received the award for her research titled “Imaging Spatiotemporal Regulation of Acetyl-CoA.’’ Schmitt’s work aims to illuminate the dynamic, subcellular nature of acetyl-CoA by engineering an acetyl-CoA biosensor which can be used to probe acetyl-CoA with high spatiotemporal resolution and ultimately enhance our understanding of mechanisms and processes that underlie living organisms. 

Schmitt joined the UCLA faculty as an Assistant Professor of Biochemistry in July 2022.  An Ohio native, Schmitt obtained a bachelor’s degree in chemistry and biochemistry from Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana. There she performed undergraduate research with Professor Bruce Storhoff as a Lewis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation scholar and interned at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in the Air Force Research Laboratory Materials and Manufacturing Directorate.  Schmitt received her Ph.D. in chemistry and biochemistry under the mentorship of Professor Songon An at the University of Maryland Baltimore County where she used fluorescence microscopy to study metabolons, or phase-separated complexes formed by metabolic enzymes. Her passion for using microscopy tools to interrogate cellular events led Schmitt to join Professor Jin Zhang’s lab in the Department of Pharmacology at University of California, San Diego, as a University of California President’s Postdoctoral Fellow and an NIH Institutional Research and Academic Career Development Award (IRACDA) Fellow. There, she focused on the novel design and application of genetically encoded fluorescent protein-based biosensors, focusing on AMP activated protein kinase (AMPK). 

The Schmitt group employs an interdisciplinary approach to study cellular metabolic regulation. They develop fluorescent protein-based genetically encoded reporters for metabolites, amino acids, and kinases involved in regulating metabolism. These microscopy-based tools help them investigate the spatial and temporal organization of metabolism in single cells. Their ultimate goal is to understand the regulation of metabolism in healthy cells and its disruption in disease.

In addition to the 58 New Innovator awards, the NIH issued eight Pioneer awards, six Transformative Research awards, and 13 Early Independence awards in 2023.

Penny Jennings, UCLA Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry, penny@chem.ucla.edu.