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ChemE's Dr. Anna Balazs among recipients of 2014 Charles E. Kaufman Foundation grants


Contact: Christopher Whitlatch, Manager of Communications

The Pittsburgh Foundation



PITTSBURGH (July 24, 2014) ... The Charles E. Kaufman Foundation, part of The Pittsburgh Foundation, today announced its 2014 grants - amounting to $1.95 million - to support cutting-edge scientific research at institutions across the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

A total of nine grants were awarded to leading researchers at six Pennsylvania universities: Pittsburgh's Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh, Penn State University, Lehigh University and Philadelphia's University of Pennsylvania and Villanova University.

The grantmaking program saw a large increase in letters of inquiry in its two award categories - New Investigator Research and New Initiative Research. More than 240 inquiries were received from 30 institutions throughout Pennsylvania, an increase of over 40% from the 170 received last year.

Charles Kaufman passed away in September 2010, shortly after his 97th birthday, leaving his estate of almost $50 million to the Foundation, of which approximately $40 million was assigned to the Charles E. Kaufman Foundation to support new research initiatives at Pennsylvania institutions of higher learning in chemistry, biology and physics. The fund is valued as one of the major resources for basic scientific research in Pennsylvania.

A former chemical engineer, Mr. Kaufman amassed most of his wealth following his retirement, all of which he dedicated to his heartfelt ambition for his philanthropy to one day help fund breakthrough scientific research and, he hoped, Nobel Prize-winners whose scientific accomplishments would contribute significantly to the betterment and understanding of human life.

"Mr. Kaufman's vision was to use the power of research to drive innovations for humankind," said Molly Beerman, The Pittsburgh Foundation's Interim President and CEO. "His fund at The Pittsburgh Foundation has made great strides in reaching this lofty goal in just two short years, delivering much needed support to researchers at a time where other traditional funding sources have declined."

Under the leadership of an eight-member Board of Directors, supported by a specially-appointed seven-member Scientific Advisory Board, systems and processes have been established to administer the Kaufman Foundation's grantmaking program. In this, its second series of annual grants, the organization awarded funding to five initiatives in the New Investigator Research category and four grants in the New Initiative Research category.

In the New Investigator Research category, grants of $150,000 over two years ($75,000 per year) were awarded to each of the following:

-- Nathan L. Clark, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Department of Computational and Systems Biology, University of Pittsburgh for research on "Co-evolutionary Signatures as a Novel Approach to Gene Discovery"

-- Tzahi Cohen-Karni, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Department of Biomedical Engineering, Carnegie Mellon University for research on "The Investigation of Pancreatic Islet Electrical Properties by a High Density Nanodevices Array"

-- Gregory Lang, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Department of Biological Sciences, Lehigh University for research on "Epistatic Interactions and Constraints on Evolutionary Outcomes in Yeast Experimental Evolution"

-- David Pekker, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Pittsburgh for research on "Protecting Quantum Information with Disorder"

-- Matt Youngman, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Department of Biology, Villanova University for research on "The Analysis of the Role of SMK-1 in the Age-Dependent Regulation of the FOXO Transcription Factory DAF-16 in Caenorhabditis Elegans"

In the New Initiative Research category, grants of $300,000 over two years ($150,000 per year) were awarded to each of the following:

-- Alison L. Barth, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Department of Biological Sciences & Marcel Bruchez, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Biological Sciences and Chemistry, Carnegie Mellon University for research on "Neural Circuitry of the Mammalian Neocortex"

-- Alexander Deiters, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Chemistry & Michael Tsang, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Department of Developmental Biology, University of Pittsburgh for research on "Expanding the Genetic Code of Zebrafish"

-- Ayusman Sen, Ph.D., Distinguished Professor, Department of Chemistry, Penn State University & Anna C. Balazs , Distinguished Professor, Department of Chemical & Petroleum Engineering, University of Pittsburgh for research on "Autonomous Interacting Microbotic Systems"

-- Alison Sweeney, Ph.D., Assistant Professor & Randall Kamien, Professor, Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Pennsylvania for research on "Living Photonic Devices: Self-assembly from Proteins as Patchy Colloids"

In addition to the 2014 grant awards, Sergey Frolov, Assistant Professor of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Pittsburgh and a 2013 recipient of a Charles E. Kaufman New Initiative Research grant, informed the Foundation that he has received an additional $3 million basic research challenge grant from the Office of Naval Research to expand his research in quantum computing.

"This story is an exceptional example of how local philanthropy can attract other funding, increasing the scale and broadening the scope of research at universities," said Dr. Graham Hatfull, Chair of the Charles E. Kaufman Foundation's Scientific Advisory Board, Eberly Family Professor of Biotechnology and Professor of Biological Sciences at the University of Pittsburgh. "The Charles Kaufman grants support ongoing transformative research that could spark a whole new area of science.

"Because of the generosity and foresight of Mr. Kaufman, we are able to facilitate the initiation of research projects and cultivate new researchers, placing them in a position to deliver advances and attract additional sources of support for their work," added Dr. Hatfull.

Summaries of all grants and funded research projects are available at: http://kaufman.pittsburghfoundation.org/News/2014-Awards .

Further information on the Charles E. Kaufman Foundation is available at its website at: http://kaufman.pittsburghfoundation.org/ .


Contact: Paul Kovach