Katrina Forest has been selected as one of five W.M. Keck Foundation Distinguished Young Scholars in Medical Research for 2001. Forest, an assistant professor of bacteriology at the UW-Madison”s College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, will receive $1 million over a five-year period to study proteins involved in the common early steps of bacterial infection in humans.
The W.M. Keck Foundation began the Distinguished Young Scholars Program in 1998 to support singularly gifted investigators with the potential to advance groundbreaking medical research, make a significant impact in the field of biomedicine, and achieve future academic leadership.
Each year, millions of human deaths and countless illnesses result from pathogenic bacteria. Various infectious diseases all have several common first steps — bacterial attachment to human cells, colonization, and signaling — that are mediated by hair-like structures called pili. Forest”s group has determined the atomic structure of the pilin subunit and will use the Keck award to investigate the structure-function relationship of PilT, a bacterial protein required for pili-mediated virulence. New information in this area may help in the design of vaccine components that lead to antibodies that block bacterial attachment and thereby hinder disease.
The W.M. Keck Foundation began the Distinguished Young Scholars in Medical Research Program to advance innovative work on the fundamental mechanisms of human disease. During its five-year duration, 25 researchers will be chosen for the award, based on their extraordinary potential for independent basic biological and medical research and a demonstrated capacity for future academic leadership. The goal is to promote the early career development of the country”s brightest young biomedical scientists by providing them with an opportunity to investigate promising and unproven new ideas, for which funding can often be difficult to obtain.
Only 30 institutions are invited to submit a candidate each year; Forest was the UW-Madison”s nominee for the 2001 round. She was evaluated individually by the Foundation”s Medical Research staff, an outside panel of scientific expertise, and the Young Scholars Scientific Advisory Committee chaired by William T. Butler, M.D., Chancellor of Baylor College of Medicine. The UW Foundation is to receive the funding on her behalf during the next five years, which Forest will use to support research activities and purchase the necessary equipment and resources to facilitate her ongoing study.
The W.M. Keck Foundation, one of the nation”s largest philanthropic organizations, is located in Los Angeles, California, and has always been strongly committed to supporting distinguished biomedical research initiatives at the nation”s premier universities and research institutions. Founded in 1954 by the late W.M. Keck, founder of the Superior Oil Company, the Foundation”s grant making is focused primarily on pioneering efforts in the areas of medical research, science and engineering, and higher education. The Foundation also maintains a Southern California Grant Program that provides support in the areas of civic and community services, health care, pre-collegiate education and the arts, as well as a program for liberal arts colleges.