UIC biologist awarded cancer research grant

May 30, 2001

University of Illinois at Chicago assistant professor of biological sciences Jennifer Schmidt is among 15 national recipients of this year's Kimmel Scholar Award Program, which supports cancer research.

As a Kimmel Scholar, Schmidt will receive $100,000 grants in each of the next two years to help further her research and establish a laboratory at UIC.

The Kimmel program, now in its fifth year, supports young investigators doing both basic and transitional cancer research. Basic research is aimed at understanding the mechanisms that cause a normal cell to become cancerous. Transitional research is considered likely to yield treatment for cancer patients in clinical settings.

Schmidt describes her research as "genomic imprinting in the regulation of cellular growth." Her laboratory is studying a subset of genes that apparently are involved in regulating cell growth, especially during fetal development and shortly after birth. These genes are necessary for child development, but many of them shut down their activity once adulthood is reached.

Scientists have found that cancer cells switch some of these genes back on, which often results in unregulated tumor growth. Schmidt hopes to discover how these genes are regulated. The finding could lead to a better understanding of how cancer develops, and possibly, new cancer therapies.

Schmidt's research at UIC began a year ago, following four years of post-doctoral research at Princeton University. She received start-up funding from UIC and hopes to win National Institutes of Health money to carry on future research.

"But getting NIH grants can take up to two years after you submit a proposal," said Schmidt. "The Kimmel grant is a nice bridge. You spend a lot of your start-up money setting up the lab, buying equipment and getting research mice. This bridges you between the start-up and the NIH funding."

Schmidt's laboratory at the UIC Medical Center employs one technician, three graduate and two undergraduate student assistants.

"The Kimmel grant came as a huge sigh of relief for me," said Schmidt, "because it allowed me to take on an additional student and get the research going a lot quicker."

An advisory board comprised of 10 cancer specialists selects Kimmel Scholar Award winners. Recipients are chosen from major not-for-profit cancer centers around the United States. The Philadelphia-based Sidney Kimmel Foundation for Cancer Research funds the award, named after the founder and chairman of Jones Apparel Group.
For more information about UIC, visit www.uic.edu

University of Illinois at Chicago

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