OMRF scientist Susannah Rankin, Ph.D., has been named the state’s first ever Pew Scholar.
After a nationwide competition, Rankin, a cell biologist at OMRF, was named Thursday as 1 of 20 2008 Pew Scholars in Biomedical Research by the Pew Charitable Trusts and the University of California at San Francisco. The honor includes a $240,000 award over four years to support her research.
“I’m really honored that the Pew Charitable Trusts has recognized my research. I’m ecstatic,” said Rankin. “This fellowship allows me to take some research risks I couldn’t otherwise take.”
Another bonus is that Rankin will meet annually with other recipients of the honor over the next four years, enabling her and OMRF to build relationships with her fellow scholars and their respective institutions, which include Harvard, Yale and Stanford.
“Pew scholars have gone on to do wonderful work, including winning Nobel prizes, and it’s quite exciting to be included in that group,” said Rankin.
Rankin, who earned a Ph.D. at Tufts University, focuses her research on a protein that regulates how chromosomes stick together and come apart when cells divide. The work has important implications for understanding birth defects, as breakdowns in the process can lead to developmental disorders and also, possibly, cancer.
Launched in 1985, the Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences supports early to mid-career scientists and has invested more than $100 million to fund the work of more than 400 scholars.
“Pew’s Program in the Biomedical Sciences is designed to enable scientists to take calculated risks, expand their research and follow unanticipated leads,” said Rebecca W. Rimel, President and Chief Executive Officer of The Pew Charitable Trusts. “Pew is honored to invest in these brilliant minds, and to provide financial and professional support as they pursue their pioneering breakthroughs.”
Rankin’s work in exploring basic biomedical functions highlights OMRF’s commitment to scientific discovery on every level, OMRF President Stephen Prescott, M.D., said.
“Dr. Rankin’s research on chromosome cohesion will no doubt be the foundation upon which future discoveries will be based,” he said. “Her selection as a Pew Scholar is yet another sign that our state is emerging as a presence in the world of biomedical research, and we are proud to have an innovative mind like Dr. Rankin’s working at OMRF and in Oklahoma.”
Chartered in 1946, OMRF is an independent, nonprofit biomedical research institute dedicated to understanding and developing more effective treatments for human disease. OMRF is home to a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the state’s only Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator. Its researchers focus on such critical research areas as children’s diseases, Alzheimer’s, cancer and cardiovascular disease.