IT assistant professor receives $1.5 million NIH New Innovator Award

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced that University of Minnesota chemistry assistant professor Christy Haynes is a recipient of the prestigious 2008 New Innovator Award. She is the first U of M faculty member to win this award which will provide $1.5 million over five years for her research to build a cell-by-cell human immune system to identify potential therapeutic approaches for treating allergic reactions and asthma.

Haynes’ research could provide the first steps for improving the lives of millions of people. Allergies affect more than 50 million people in the United States. Additionally, more than 20 million Americans suffer from asthma, with 70 percent of these asthmatics also experiencing other allergies.

Haynes and her team of researchers plan to use the University of Minnesota’s state-of-the-art Nanofabrication Center to build a model of a human immune system from the bottom up, one cell at a time, in the lab and then carefully measure how the cells communicate with each other when exposed to allergens or other factors.

“This is a new way of looking at the immune system, and the measurements we take will be the first of their kind to help other researchers in their quest to develop new therapies for allergy and asthma sufferers,” Haynes said. “There's so much we don’t know about the immune system, and this is a new way of looking at it and asking new questions.”

Haynes said her access to the university’s Nanofabrication Center likely played a role in securing this award. “I’m really lucky to have access to such a great nanotechnology research facility right here at the University of Minnesota to do this type of work,” Haynes said.

Haynes was appointed as a chemistry assistant professor at the University of Minnesota in 2005. In 2007, she received a McKnight Land-Grant Professorship, which honors the university’s most promising junior faculty. Haynes’ areas of expertise include analytical chemistry and chemical biology. She received her bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Macalester College and her master's and doctoral degrees in chemistry from Northwestern University.

This is the second year of the NIH New Innovator Award that supports researchers who have never been the lead researcher on an NIH major grant in the past. NIH selects the recipients through highly competitive application and evaluation processes. The goal is to support innovative research with the potential to produce a major impact on broad, important problems in biomedical and behavioral research.


September 22, 2008