BU postdoctoral researcher wins competitive NIH Pathway to Independence Award

Duo Zhang, PhD, a postdoctoral associate at Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM), has received the highly competitive National Institutes of Health (NIH) Pathway to Independence (K99) Award. The award helps facilitate the transition of postdoctoral researchers from mentored positions to independent tenure-track or faculty positions and helps launch research careers.

Zhang's research focuses on bacterial-induced pneumonia, which causes an overwhelming inflammatory response in the lung. He plans to investigate a previously unidentified RNA molecular in lung inflammation with the goal of identifying therapeutic strategies for lung injury and inflammation. The $100,000 grant will assist him in launching this independent research.

"My long-term career goal is to become an independent scientist and investigator publishing my research in top-tier journals that will provide new knowledge about lung infection and inflammation and provide novel clinical approaches not only in diagnosis but also in treatments and therapies for lung infection and inflammation that significantly alter the course of the disease," said Zhang.

Zhang received his undergraduate degree in biological sciences from Nankai University in Tianjin, China. He received his PhD in biochemistry and molecular biology from the Institute for Nutritional Sciences, Chinese Academy in Shanghai, China, where he developed an interest in understanding the role of microRNAs, which regulate many aspects of development and physiology.

Zhang moved to the United States in 2015 and became a postdoctoral associate in the Pulmonary Center at BUSM under Yang Jin, MD, PhD, associate professor of medicine.

He previously has published his research on Duchenne muscular dystrophy in PLOS ONE and Journal of Cell Biology and was awarded a research grant from the National Science Foundation for Young Scholars of China, which helped him pursue a research career. He also has published three manuscripts on the role of microRNAs in acute lung injury and acute respiratory distress syndrome.

"I am very grateful for the strong support from my mentor Dr. Jin and co-mentor Dr. Mizgerd, especially as a first-time applicant for an NIH grant," Zhang said. "This award will be instrumental in assisting me in achieving my goals."

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