Girirajan Awarded March of Dimes Starter Scholar Award
17 February 2014
Santhosh Girirajan, an assistant professor of biochemistry and molecular biology in The Eberly College of Science at The Pennsylvania State University, was awarded a two-year Basil O’Connor Starter Scholar Research Award by the March of Dimes Foundation to further his investigations into understanding the genetic basis of intellectual disability disorders. Recent studies have suggested a significant role for rare copy number variants, deletions, and duplications in the human genome, in neurodevelopmental disorders such as intellectual disability, autism, schizophrenia, and epilepsy. However, several of these variants are associated with extensive phenotypic variability with the same genomic lesion conferring risk for multiple disorders. It is this complex problem that Girirajan and his lab are most excited to study. Girirajan says, “This award will allow us to study copy number variants associated with genomic disorders in greater detail.” The Girirajan Lab will study how the presence of other rare genetic variants can modify the clinical outcome in individuals affected by genomic disorders. Girirajan “believes this study, will be an essential step towards untangling the complex genetics of neurodevelopmental disorders”. Girirajan came to Penn State in 2012 after a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Washington, Seattle.
The March of Dimes Foundation was originally founded by Franklin D. Roosevelt to combat polio. Currently the funds are awarded for research to discover the genetic causes of birth defects. The Basil O'Connor Starter Scholar Research Awards – created in 1973 and named for the first March of Dimes chairman and president – provide funding to young investigators with promising new research related to the organization's mission.