2023 Ono Breakthrough Science Initiative Award

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Prof. Keriann Backus

Professor Keriann Backus has been named a recipient of the 2023 Breakthrough Science Initiative Award from the Ono Pharma Foundation to support her research on chemoproteogenomic approaches to guide immunomodulatory therapeutics.

Backus will garner $900,000, plus funding for indirect research costs, for a total grant exceeding $1 million.

The highly competitive awards program is designed to support academic research and the career development of promising young and established scientists. Its goal is to advance innovative research proposals and findings that could lead to the discovery of breakthrough treatments for patients.

The three-year grant will support Backus’ groups efforts to develop and apply multi-omic approaches to uncover therapeutically accessible genetic variants, which will be leveraged to alter immune cell function.  

The Ono Pharma Foundation was established to promote academic research that has potential for making a significant impact on therapeutic approaches to disease and pain management. The Breakthrough Science Initiative Awards Program embodies the Foundation’s commitment to accelerate researcher-driven innovation, with a focus on supporting high-risk and high-reward science projects.

Backus joined the UCLA faculty in 2018 as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Biological Chemistry at the UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine and in the Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry.  In 2020 she was selected for UCLA’s Alexander and Renee Kolin Endowed Professorship of Molecular Biology and Biophysics.

Among her awards and honors, Backus was selected for a prestigious 2021 NIH DP2 New Innovator Award, 2020 Packard Fellowship for Science and Engineering,  2019 Young Faculty Award from the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and as a 2019 Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation Young Investigator.

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