Drs. Neil Hanchard and Sandesh Nagamani of Baylor College of Medicine have received prestigious career developmental awards from The Doris Duke Charitable Foundation to support their transition to becoming independent clinical researchers.

Two of only 16 clinical scientists who received the awards nationwide, the award will provide each clinical scientist $486,000 over three years and aid them in the process of establishing their own research teams.

Dr. Neil Hanchard

Hanchard, an assistant professor of molecular and human genetics at BCM, received his award to help him advance his research into severe childhood malnutrition.

"Dr. Hanchard will be pursuing a highly novel and exceptionally promising approach to why some children develop kwashiorkor (the most severe form of childhood malnutrition) when they become malnourished," said Dr. John Belmont, professor of molecular and human genetics at BCM and Hanchard’s mentor. "The origin of kwashiorkor is one of the classic unsolved problems in human nutrition and Dr. Hanchard has the unique background and capability to integrate multiple, unbiased genomic technologies to help us better understand this critical global health problem."

"Understanding the problem is paramount to developing more effective therapeutic strategies and reducing the significant morbidity and mortality associated with Kwashiorkor," said Hanchard.

Dr. Sandesh Nagamani

Nagamani, also an assistant professor of molecular and human genetics at BCM, received his award which will help him advance his research with the genetic disorder argininosuccinic aciduria.

"Dr. Nagamani’s work will test a new approach to treating deficiency of nitric oxide, an important molecule in many processes of the human body," said Dr. Brendan Lee, professor of molecular and human genetics at BCM and Nagamani’s mentor. "He is testing whether this treatment can prevent complications in argininosuccinic aciduria, a genetic disease affecting the body’s ability to handle protein."

"Our clinical studies evaluating nitric oxide supplementation in argininosuccinic aciduria are based on many years of mechanistic studies in mice and humans. They exemplify bench-to-bedside translational research and it has been my privilege to be involved in this endeavor," said Nagamani.

Additionally, the awards will enable Hanchard and Nagamani to secure 75 percent of their professional time for clinical research.

"For the clinical research workforce to remain strong, we must invest in the next generation of researchers," said Sindy Escobar-Alvarez, program officer for the Foundation’s Medical Research Program. "Supporting young physician-scientists as they transition to independence is especially important as they must juggle the responsibilities of conducting research with seeing patients."

The Doris Duke Charitable Foundation was established in 1996 to improve the quality of people’s lives through grants supporting the performing arts, environmental conservation, medical research and the prevention of child abuse, and through preservation of the cultural and environmental legacy of Doris Duke's properties.