Kamena Kostova, courtesy Navid Marvi, Carnegie Institution for Science

Baltimore, MD— Carnegie biologist Kamena Kostova has been selected for the Director’s Early Independence Award from the National Institutes of Health, which is designed to provide “exceptional junior scientists” with the opportunity to “skip traditional post-doctoral training and move immediately into independent research positions.”

Kostova is one of 13 recipients of the 2019 Early Independence Award. The recognition is part of a suite of four that comprise the NIH Director’s High-Risk, High-Reward Research Program, which honors “highly innovative biomedical or behavioral research proposed by extraordinarily creative scientists.”

“Each year, I look forward to seeing the creative approaches these researchers take to solve tough problems in biomedical and behavioral research,” said NIH Director Francis S. Collins. “I am confident the 2019 cohort of awardees has the potential to advance our mission of enhancing health through their groundbreaking studies.”

Kostova is a staff associate at Carnegie’s Department of Embryology, where she specializes in studying ribosomes—the cellular machinery responsible for translating genetic material into protein. Her lab uses cutting-edge technology, such as CRISPR-mediated genome editing, to understand how cells maintain ribosomal integrity and to investigate what happens when a cell’s ribosomes break down. Ribosome damage has recently been linked to human diseases including cancer and neurodegeneration.

“Congratulations to Kamena for this well-deserved recognition,” said Embryology Director Yixian Zheng. “Established by one of my predecessors, Don Brown, our department’s staff associate program was designed to encourage early career scientists to take up the kind of bold, creative research pursuits laid out in Carnegie’s founding mission. This initiative inspired other institutions around the country to establish similar positions and the NIH to create an award to support these efforts. So, it seems particularly appropriate for Kamena to receive it now. Her cutting-edge work is a credit to Andrew Carnegie’s vision.”

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