Opeyemi Olabisi Receives NIH New Innovator Award

DMPI faculty member, Opeyemi A. Olabisi, MD, PhD is one of only 60 recipients to receive the 2019 NIH Director’s New Innovator award. The grant, awarded through the NIH High-Risk, High-Reward Research Program, supports exceptionally creative scientists pursuing highly innovative research with the potential for broad impact and provides $1.5 million for a five-year project.

Dr. Olabisi will be using the new innovator award to explore the functions of the gene APOL1 which explains 70 percent of excess risk for non-diabetic kidney disease in people of recent African ancestry. Twelve percent of African-Americans carry a version of the gene that can be traced back 6,000 years to a mutation in Africa that provided some protection against sleeping sickness, but also has a harmful effect on the kidneys. He will use stem-cell derived kidney cells of affected and healthy individuals to uncover the function of the gene as well as the reason why some people who carry the mutation are able to avoid kidney disease. Insights from his research could pave the way for innovative prevention and treatment of APOL1-associated kidney disease.

“Each year, I look forward to seeing the creative approaches these researchers take to solve tough problems in biomedical and behavioral research,” said NIH Director Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D. “I am confident the 2019 cohort of awardees has the potential to advance our mission of enhancing health through their groundbreaking studies.”