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Dr. Chenghang “Chuck” Zong

Dr. Chenghang “Chuck” Zong of Baylor College of Medicine has been awarded a National Institutes of Health Director’s New Innovator Award, a prestigious grant designated to support promising new scientists and their highly innovative research ideas.

Zong, who joined Baylor last year as an assistant professor of molecular and human genetics department and a McNair Scholar, received a $1.5 million, five-year grant to further support his lab’s endeavor for profiling and understanding the genomic variations at single cell level in solid cancers.    

Using next generation sequencing resources at Baylor, Zong and his team will study the complexity of these tumors at a microscopic level and seek to glean important new information about which mutations contribute to the development of cancer, especially at the stage of tumorigenesis.

Among the techniques they will use is single cell whole genome sequencing, which allows the accurate examination of mutations and copy number variations across the whole genome at single cell resolution.

“Ultimately, we hope the project will have a broad impact on basic and clinical research, and lead to the development of therapeutic treatments for early intervention,” he said.  

Zong, a member of the NCI-designated Dan L Duncan Cancer Center at Baylor, was one of 50 researchers who received the award in 2014. The award was created to support exceptionally creative new investigators who propose highly innovative projects that have the potential for unusually high impact.

Dr. Kjersti Aagaard, associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Baylor, won an NIH Director’s Innovator Award in 2007 and Dr. Jue D. Wang, associate professor of molecular and human genetics at Baylor, won in 2008.

The NIH announced 85 new high-risk, high-reward grants totally approximately $141 million today including Zong’s New Innovator Award.

"Supporting innovative investigators with the potential to transform scientific fields is a critical element of our mission,”’ said NIH Director Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D. "This program allows researchers to propose highly creative research projects across a broad range of biomedical and behavioral research areas that involve inherent risk but have the potential to lead to dramatic breakthroughs."

Read more about current awardees and the NIH High Risk-High Reward Research Program.