St. Jude Children's Research Hospital researcher receives NIH high-risk, high reward award

Dr. Charles Gawad recipient of NIH Director's New Innovator Award     

MEMPHIS, Tenn., Oct. 11, 2018 /PRNewswire/ --Charles Gawad, M.D., Ph.D., an assistant member in the Departments of Oncology and Computational Biology at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, has been selected by the National Institutes of Health to receive a Director's New Innovator Award.

Established in 2007, this award supports unusually innovative research from early career investigators who are within 10 years of their final degree or clinical residency. The award is part of the NIH high-risk, high-reward program, which supports extremely creative scientists that propose unique solutions to major challenges in biomedical research.

Gawad's project, titled "Creating a Catalog of Cancer Clonotype Drug Sensitivities With Single-Cell Genome Sequencing," will use a method his lab invented called primary template-directed genome amplification to identify patterns of mutations in leukemia cells isolated from pediatric oncology patients. They will then correlate those mutation patterns with resistance to specific drugs. The ability to connect the genotype of distinct leukemia populations with response to specific drugs could lead to more precise treatment strategies for many cancer types. The grant is worth more than $2.6 million over five years.

"It is a great honor to have our work recognized with this award," Gawad said. "We aim to use this support from NIH to create a new generation of cancer genomics tools that will interrogate the genomes of individual cells, rather than thousands of cells mixed together, as is currently done. My ultimate aim is to have oncologists use the higher resolution details of a patient's cancer provided by these technologies to devise more effective treatment strategies for their patients."  

Gawad has worked at St. Jude since 2015. He earned his degree in medicine from the University of Arizona and his Ph.D. from Stanford.

Charles Roberts, M.D., Ph.D. executive vice president and Cancer Center Director for St. Jude, said researchers like Gawad aim to facilitate new treatments through their research.

"At St. Jude, we are constantly looking to not only boost cure rates, but to sculpt our treatments to best target each patients' unique cancer," Roberts said. "This grant is recognition for the impactful work Dr. Gawad and his lab are pioneering."

The Director's New Innovator Award is one of four awards NIH is distributing. In all, 89 researchers will receive a share of $282 million in funding for their work from the NIH's common fund, which encourages collaboration and supports a series of exceptionally high-impact programs.

St. Jude Children's Research Hospital

St. Jude Children's Research Hospital is leading the way the world understands, treats and cures childhood cancer and other life-threatening diseases. It is the only National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center devoted solely to children. Treatments developed at St. Jude have helped push the overall childhood cancer survival rate from 20 percent to 80 percent since the hospital opened more than 50 years ago. St. Jude freely shares the breakthroughs it makes, and every child saved at St. Jude means doctors and scientists worldwide can use that knowledge to save thousands more children. Families never receive a bill from St. Jude for treatment, travel, housing and food — because all a family should worry about is helping their child live. To learn more, visit or follow St. Jude on social media at @stjuderesearch.

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SOURCE St. Jude Children's Research Hospital


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