Shruti Naik, Priyanka Sharma win 2018 Blavatnik Regional Awards for Young Scientists

Shruti Naik, an Indian American scientist, who works as an Assistant Professor in the New York University School of Medicine, has been chosen to receive the prestigious 2018 Blavatnik Regional Awards for Young Scientists.

Another Indian American researcher, Priyanka Sharma, a postdoctoral researcher at Stony Brook University, received honorable mention in the “Chemistry” category. She was recognized for her pioneering work on the low-cost conversion of untreated biomass to carboxycellulose nanofibers, which have applications in biomedicine and water purification.

Instituted by the Blavatnik Family Foundation and the New York Academy of Sciences, the awards support outstanding postdoctoral researchers in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.

Naik was nominated in the Life Sciences category for demonstrating that skin stem cells retain a “memory” of previous inflammatory experiences, allowing for a more robust and rapid response to subsequent injury, according to a press release.

Since skin tissue is sustained by pools of long-living epithelial stem cells, Naik discovered that the exposure of these stem cells to noxious stimuli can induce an inflammatory “memory” that alters stem cells’ genetic landscape and makes them respond more quickly and robustly to a subsequent insult.

According to a press release, Naik has also found that exposure to inflammation increases the accessibility of the cell’s DNA in regions that are associated with stress responses and in turn, these “poised” stem cells more quickly trigger inflammatory gene expression after a second injury. This discovery may help the development of better treatment for a variety of skin conditions in the future.

According to a press release, 125 nominated researchers competed for the total 9 awards at stake this year. The winners and finalists will be honored at the New York Academy of Sciences’ annual gala in New York on November 5, 2018. The winners will be awarded $30,000 and finalists will be awarded $10,000.

“These outstanding, early-career scientists are highly innovative and inspirational,” said Len Blavatnik, founder and chairman of Access Industries and the Blavatnik Family Foundation, and member of the President’s Council of the New York Academy of Sciences. “We are proud of their contributions to science and excited to observe how their current and future discoveries will make the world a better place.”

Ellis Rubinstein, president and CEO of the Academy and chair of the Awards’ Scientific Advisory Council, said: “The New York Metropolitan area’s scientific eco-system is a melting pot of scientific ideas and research disciplines. This year’s winners and finalists have taken risks, stepped ‘outside of the box’ of their traditional fields, and drawn from methods and applications beyond their strict disciplines, forging new ideas in the process. Their research and dedication is promising for the future of our world.”

The Blavatnik Family Foundation, founded by industrialist and philanthropist Len Blavatnik, supports educational, scientific, cultural, and charitable institutions in the United States and other parts of the world.

The New York Academy of Sciences, a 200-year-old nonprofit, advances scientific research, education, and policy.

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