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Dr. Holly Cline Receives 2005 NIH Director’s Pioneer Award

National Institutes of Health Director Elias A. Zerhouni, M.D., today named 13 new recipients of the NIH Director’s Pioneer Award including Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory’s Director of Research Hollis (Holly) T. Cline.

A key component of the NIH Roadmap for Medical Research, the Pioneer Award supports exceptionally creative scientists who take innovative approaches to major challenges in biomedical research. The award gives recipients 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 2005 awardees will receive up to $500,000 in direct costs per year for five years.


“The scientists we recognize with Pioneer Awards have far-ranging ideas that hold the potential to make truly extraordinary contributions to many fields of medical research,” said Zerhouni. “The recipients reflect the talent and diversity of the impressive group of scientists who competed for the award. The strength of this group, and the willingness of a number of NIH institutes to contribute funds to the program, led us to make nearly twice as many awards as we originally planned. This speaks volumes about the exciting opportunities that lie ahead, and we look forward to seeing where the visionary concepts of our Pioneer Awardees lead.”

Dr. Cline will use the Pioneer Award for a projected entitled “A Novel Method For In Vivo Identification Of Neuronal Connectivity Using A Trans-cellular Catalytic Cascade.” Dr. Cline received a Ph.D. in Neurobiology from University of California, Berkeley, in 1985. Using time-lapse imaging, electrophysiology, and molecular genetic techniques, Dr. Cline developed an experimental system to assess cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying plasticity in response to visual stimulation in living animals. She plans to use her Pioneer Award to launch a large-scale project to understand the architecture, development, and plasticity of brain circuits. Dr. Cline sits on the Board of Scientific Counselors of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke and is a Council member of the Society for Neuroscience.

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. After NIH staff determined the eligibility of each nominee, the first of three groups of distinguished outside experts identified the most highly competitive individuals in the pool. The second set of outside experts evaluated the 285 scientists in this group, focusing 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. The evaluators also considered the appropriateness of the project for the Pioneer Award mechanism, including the requirement that it be distinct from other research by the investigator. These evaluators identified 20 scientists who were then interviewed at NIH by the third group of outside experts. A final review was performed by the Advisory Committee to the Director, NIH, which made funding recommendations to the NIH Director based on the evaluations by the outside experts and programmatic considerations.

More information on the 2005 NIH Director’s Pioneer Award recipients is at Details on the Pioneer Award program, including the names of the outside evaluators for the 2005 awards, are at

The NIH Roadmap for Medical Research is a series of far-reaching initiatives designed to transform the nation's medical research capabilities and speed the movement of research discoveries from the bench to the bedside. It provides a framework of the priorities the NIH must address in order to optimize its entire research portfolio and lays out a vision for a more efficient and productive system of medical research.

A key component of the NIH Roadmap for Medical Research, the NIH Director’s Pioneer Award supports exceptionally creative scientists who take innovative approaches to major challenges in biomedical research. Awardees receive up to $500,000 in direct costs per year for five years. More information about the Pioneer Award is at

Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory is a private, non-profit basic research institution. Under the leadership of Dr. Bruce Stillman, a member of the National Academy of Sciences and a Fellow of the Royal Society (London), more than 330 scientists at the Laboratory conduct groundbreaking research in cancer, neurobiology, plant genetics, and bioinformatics. Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory is one of eight National Cancer Institute-designated basic research centers in the U.S. and the only such center in the tri-state area.

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