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September 29, 2005

Hopkins Researcher Receives $2.5 Million NIH Award

Infectious Disease Expert to Pursue Virus Surveillance System

Nathan D. Wolfe, DSc, an assistant professor in the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health’s departments of Epidemiology and Molecular Microbiology and Immunology, received a $2.5 million National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director’s Pioneer Award. It will be apportioned in $500,000 installments for five years. He is the first Johns Hopkins researcher to receive the award. The Pioneer Award supports exceptionally creative scientists who take innovative approaches to major challenges in biomedical research.

Nathan D. Wolfe, DSc

Nathan Wolfe, DSc

Wolfe, who studies the emergence of infectious diseases, combines methods from molecular virology, ecology, evolutionary biology and anthropology to study the biology of viral emergence. He said he plans to use his Pioneer Award to collaborate with subsistence hunters in regions of high biodiversity to establish a surveillance system to monitor the entry of novel viruses into humans, which is a significant threat to global public health. He will also use new technologies for detecting unknown microorganisms. A recipient of a Fulbright fellowship, Wolfe was also this month named one of the “Brilliant 10” by Popular Science magazine.

“It’s an incredible privilege and responsibility to participate in this award program. This award is an acknowledgement by the NIH of the importance of research aimed at understanding how viruses emerge, and of the need for systems to detect novel viruses before they become pandemics,” said Wolfe.

The award gives recipients, 13 in all, the intellectual freedom to pursue groundbreaking new research directions that could have significant impact if successful but that, due to their novelty or other factors, also have inherently high risks of failure. The newest Pioneer Award recipients were selected from 840 scientists who underwent a streamlined but rigorous self-nomination and evaluation process that began in March 2005. Research proposals were evaluated with a focus on their innovativeness and creativity, the importance of the scientific problem to be addressed and the likelihood that the project’s success would have a high impact on biomedical research.

More information about the Pioneer Award can be found at

Public Affairs media contacts for the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health: Kenna Lowe or Tim Parsons at 410-955-6878 or Photographs of Nathan Wolfe are available upon request.