SAN DIEGO – (June 14, 2012) — Renata M. Pereira, Ph.D., a researcher at the La Jolla Institute for Allergy & Immunology exploring genetic changes in leukemia, has been selected as a Pew Latin American Fellow in the Biomedical Sciences, The Pew Charitable Trusts announced today.
Dr. Renata was one of 10 exceptional young researchers chosen nationwide for the prestigious award, which Pew gives annually to enable postdoctoral-level, Latin American scientists to work in top laboratories in the United States. The award provides salary support for over two years. When finished with the U.S.-based research, Fellows receive additional funding to establish labs in their home countries.
“For over two decades, the Latin American Fellows Program in the Biomedical Sciences has provided outstanding, early-career scientists from Latin American countries with advanced training opportunities and has assisted them in bringing their knowledge and skills back to their nations,” said Rebecca W. Rimel, president and CEO of The Pew Charitable Trusts.
Dr. Pereira, 31, came to the United States in 2011 to work in the La Jolla Institute lab of Anjana Rao, Ph.D., a prominent genetics and cell biology researcher and a member of the National Academy of Sciences. “This opportunity is very valuable because Dr. Rao`s lab is one of the most prestigious labs in the world focused on gene expression regulation,” said Dr. Pereira, who also studies molecular biology in her home country of Brazil. “I am thrilled to receive the Pew award because it will enable me to continue my research here in the U.S. After completing my Fellowship, I will return to Brazil where I will apply the knowledge that I have gained here to improve our research activities.”
At the La Jolla Institute, Dr. Pereira is delving deeper into a discovery by Dr. Rao in 2010 on gene modifications in leukemia. “Small chemical modifications on DNA and its associated proteins, known as histones, can change dramatically how genes are turned on in cells,” said Dr. Rao. “Dr. Pereira’s work will tell us exactly how two of these modifications, on DNA and on a histone respectively, are related to each other and how they affect the development of blood cancers and the proper functioning of the immune system.”
Ultimately, Dr. Rao added, Dr. Pereira’s work will enhance our understanding of cancer biology and could provide a new target for the treatment of leukemia.
Dr. Pereira said she also studied gene expression in Brazil, but that they do not have the high degree of know-how in approaches to study DNA and histone modifications nor access to the next-generation sequencing and high-throughput genomics screening technology located in La Jolla Institute’s RNA interference (RNAi) Center. The Center, one of the few of its type in the world, enables researchers to sift through thousands of genes in a relatively short period. “It’s one thing to read about these experiments in scientific papers,” said Dr. Pereira. “It’s another to actually do them. That’s why I’ve learned so much in one year.”
The full list of new 2012 Pew Latin American Fellows in the Biomedical Sciences can be found here: http://directory.pewlatinfellows.org.
About La Jolla Institute
Founded in 1988, the La Jolla Institute for Allergy & Immunology is a biomedical research nonprofit focused on improving human health through increased understanding of the immune system. Its scientists carry out research seeking new knowledge leading to the prevention of disease through vaccines and the treatment and cure of infectious diseases, cancer, inflammatory and autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, type 1 (juvenile) diabetes, Crohn’s disease and asthma. La Jolla Institute’s research staff includes more than 150 Ph.D.s and M.D.s. To learn more about the Institute’s work, visit www.liai.org.