U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command

April 22, 2002

Innovator Award Recipients from the DOD Breast Cancer Research Program

Points of Contact:
Gail Whitehead, Public Affairs Coordinator, phone (301) 619-7071;
Richard Kenyon, Ph.D., BCRP Program Manager, phone (301) 619-7071

The Department of Defense Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs (CDMRP) announces the recipients of the fiscal year 2001 (FY01) Breast Cancer Research Program (BCRP) Innovator Award. The award was structured to recognize talented individuals, rather than projects, from any field of study by providing funding and freedom to pursue creative, potentially breakthrough research that could ultimately accelerate the eradication of breast cancer. The new Innovator Awards will fund individuals up to $3 million for a period of up to four years.

The 2001 recipients of the BCRP Innovator Awards are as follows:

Mina J. Bissell, Ph.D. (Life Sciences Division Director and Senior Staff Scientist, Ernest Orlando Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory): Dr. Bissell has been a visionary in her views on the importance of cell microenvironment, and was the first to show that the extracellular matrix is necessary for the proper functioning and differentiation of mammary epithelial tissue. She has a distinguished record of innovative thinking and achievements. Dr. Bissell has received numerous awards including the Ernest Orlando Lawrence Award from the U.S. Department of Energy, the Eli Lily/Clowes Award of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR), and an honorary doctorate from the Pierre & Marie Curie University in Paris. She was a John Simon Guggenheim Fellow and is an AACR Fellow and a member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences. Through her Innovator Award, Dr. Bissell will investigate how aggressive breast cancer cell lines could be brought under control using signaling inhibitors.

Gerald J. Diebold, Ph.D. (Professor of Physical Chemistry, Brown University): Dr. Diebold is a new and original thinker and prolific inventor in physical chemistry who has engendered enormous international respect. He is the Director of International Photoacoustic and Photothermal Society, and has served on the Advisory Committee for the Ninth International Conference on Photoacoustic and Photothermal Phenomena and the U.S. Department of Energy Review Board for Environmental Science. Dr. Diebold was a winner of the Alcoa Foundation Research Award. Dr. Diebold seeks to develop a new method of breast tissue imaging based on an electroacoustic effect known as ultrasonic vibration potential. This is a new and unique approach to imaging that differs completely from the normal reflection phenomenon of ultrasound currently in use.

Gregory J. Hannon, Ph.D. (Associate Professor, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory): Dr. Hannon is a highly gifted scientist whose research history includes a number of groundbreaking discoveries. He has done significant work on cell-cycle control, and has cloned genes of recognized importance to cancer. Capitalizing on his studies of the mechanisms of double stranded RNA-induced gene silencing, Dr. Hannon will search the human genome for proteins that are selectively required for the survival of breast cancer cells. The ultimate goal is the identification of novel targets for breast cancer treatment.

Erkki Ruoslahti, M.D., Ph.D. (Distinguished Professor, The Burnham Institute): Dr Ruoslahti's research is characterized by its innovation and his ability to bring risky new strategies to fruition. He has made seminal contributions to the understanding of mechanisms of cell adhesions to the substratum and how these interactions are perturbed in cancer. Dr. Ruoslahti is a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the European Molecular Biology Organization, and the Finnish Academy of Sciences. His research has been recognized with numerous awards, including the Gairdner Foundation International Award for Achievement in Medical Science in 1997. The focus of Dr. Ruoslahti's Innovator Award will be to devise strategies targeting the vasculature of breast cancer.

Junying Yuan, Ph.D. (Professor, Department of Cell Biology, Harvard University Medical School): Dr. Yuan is a highly innovative investigator with a record of unusually creative accomplishments. She has shown a remarkable ability to enter new areas of biology, fully immerse herself in each new field, and make important contributions. She is unquestionably a leader in the field of apoptosis. For her Innovator Award, Dr. Yuan will identify molecules that allow human cells to undergo aging and eventual death. Identification of such molecules will play a major role in future therapies for breast cancer.

The CDMRP is pleased to offer the BCRP Innovator Award again for FY02. The program is looking for individuals with proven abilities in any field that wish to redirect their careers in ways that would aggressively accelerate the eradication of breast cancer. The Innovator Award mechanism provides up to $3 million over a 4-year period for this purpose. The primary criteria for making these awards will be the record and potential for accomplishment of the applicant, not the merits of a specific research project. Applications require an essay rather than a traditional research proposal. A required electronic Letter of Intent is due by May 30, 2002, and submission of the electronic application is due by June 13, 2002. Full details on eligibility, requirements, and instructions for applications are available on the CDMRP web site:

For more information on other current CDMRP research funding opportunities in breast, prostate, and ovarian cancer; neurofibromatosis; tuberous sclerosis; and chronic myelogenous leukemia, go to the CDMRP web site at