UCSF Weill Innovation Fund

In the inaugural year, funding was divided between two types of awards:

  • Weill Innovation Awards are supporting high-risk, high-reward research that span from basic science projects focused on better understanding how the brain functions, to clinical and translational research focused on developing novel ways to prevent, treat and repair damage caused by diseases and disorders of the brain.
  • Weill Scholar Awards are supporting a remarkable cadre of great young scientists with the financial freedom to advance groundbreaking research.

For 2016-17, there were nine recipients of the Innovation Award, each receiving $150,000 per year for three years based on satisfactory annual progress reports, and there were six recipients of the Scholar Award, each receiving $100,000 over one year. The recipients were selected by the UCSF Weill Institute Steering Committee, which includes the Weills, UCSF leadership, and three Review Committee Chairs – Ying-Hui Fu, PhD; Lily Jan, PhD; and Kristine Yaffe, MD.

2016 Innovation Awards

  • Robert Edwards, MD, is exploring the dual roles of alpha-synuclein, a protein that both causes Parkinson’s disease and serves an important role in normal brain function.
  • Mark von Zastrow, MD, PhD, Brian Shoichet, PhD, and Nevan Krogan, PhD, are studying a promising new UCSF-discovered alternative to traditional opioids, with the potential to offer pain relief without the risk of addiction. 
  • Peter Walter, PhD, and Susanna Rosi, PhD, hope to understand what happens to the brain when a person loses the ability to remember and and investigate a novel drug that could fight memory loss and enhance cognition.
  • Yin Shen, PhD, and Arnold Kriegstein, MD, PhD, are working to untangle the genetic basis of complex neurodevelopmental disorders, such as autism, schizophrenia, and intellectual disability.
  • Amy Gelfand, MD, Steve Cummings, MD, John Boscardin, PhD, and Andrew Charles, MD, are using an innovative remote trial technique to evaluate the efficacy of melatonin for migraine prevention in adolescents.
  • Stephan Sanders, BMBS, PhD, Riley Bove, MD, and Kate Rankin, PhD, aim to develop a state-of-the-art neuropsychiatry clinic to ensure that physicians and scientists have access to relevant, up-to-date, and accurate clinical information.
  • Daniel Lim, MD, PhD, and Geoffrey Manley, MD, PhD, have joined forces to develop a highly specific and sensitive diagnostic test for mild traumatic brain injury (TBI).
  • Michael Wilson, MD, Samuel Pleasure, MD, PhD, and Joseph DeRisi, PhD, are using state-of-the-art research tools to discover novel causes of antibody-mediated neurological diseases.
  • Lisa Gunaydin, PhD, is working to identify cellular and circuit biomarkers for susceptibility to anxiety disorders.

2016 Scholar Awards

  • Raquel C. Gardner, MD, is using a novel analytic approach to reinvent how TBI’s impact on individual patients is measured and analyzed, in order to help physicians better classify their patients’ injuries and predict how they will recover.
  • Mazen Kheirbek, PhD, is using new technologies to identify novel cell types within the hippocampus that may impact mood and anxiety-related behavior, in order to develop novel targets for therapeutics.
  • Alexandra Nelson, MD, PhD, hopes to understand the role of a group of cells in the brain (collectively known as striosomes) in Parkinson’s disease, a vital step toward eventual therapeutic manipulation of these cells.
  • Michael Oldham, PhD, is utilizing gene expression data to develop mathematical models that predict the cell types most likely to populate each area of the human brain.
  • Louis Ptáček, MD, is working to illuminate the normal function of a newly discovered gene in patients with paroxysmal non-kinesigenic dyskinesia, a rare episodic movement disorder.
  • Maggie Waung, MD, is investigating brainstem circuits that are activated during headache to understand how these circuits may contribute to the development of chronic migraine or medication overuse in headache patients.