NIH Director’s New Innovator Award

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Sletten Ellen 2018

Professor Ellen Sletten receives prestigious $1.5 million New Innovator Award from the National Institutes of Health’s High-Risk, High-Reward Research program.  

The NIH Director’s New Innovator Award, established in 2007, supports unusually innovative research from early career investigators. Sletten received the award for her proposal on new methods to image and treat diseases that have distinct metabolic features. This work represents innovative approaches to bioorthogonal chemistry, theranostics, and molecular recognition. The design of new molecular recognition systems is performed in collaboration with Professor Kendall N. Houk, Saul Winstein Chair in Organic Chemistry at UCLA.

An assistant professor of organic chemistry, Sletten joined the faculty of the UCLA Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry in 2015. She obtained her Ph.D. in Chemistry from UC Berkeley in 2011, working in the group of Professor Carolyn Bertozzi on the development of bioorthogonal chemistries. Upon graduation, Sletten moved to Massachusetts Institute of Technology as an NIH postdoctoral fellow in Professor Timothy Swager’s group where she explored dynamic fluorescence-based sensors. At UCLA, Sletten has established an interdisciplinary research program that leverages the tools of physical organic chemistry to create new therapeutic and diagnostic technologies. In addition to the NIH Director’s New Innovator Award, Sletten is a 2018 Sloan Fellow in Chemistry and currently holds the McTague Career Development Chair. To learn more about Sletten’s research, visit her group’s website.

The High-Risk, High-Reward Program, created to support the work of exceptionally creative scientists, is supported by the NIH Common Fund. 58 New Innovator Awards were made in 2018 and a total of 89 grants were awarded across the program.

The program catalyzes scientific discovery by supporting compelling, high-risk research proposals that may struggle in the traditional peer review process despite their transformative potential. Program applicants are encouraged to think outside-the-box and to pursue creative, trailblazing ideas in any area of research relevant to the NIH mission.

“This program supports exceptionally innovative researchers who have the potential to transform the biomedical field,” said NIH Director Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D. “I am confident this new cohort will revolutionize our approaches to biomedical research through their groundbreaking work.”

Update: the news of Sletten’s award was reported in the UCLA Newsroom on November 26, 2018.  Read the article here.