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BIDMC researchers win 2015 Dvorak Young Investigator Award

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BOSTON — Two young scientists from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC), whose research is revealing important insights into the genetic changes underlying kidney disease, have received the 2015 Dvorak Young Investigator Award. Anders Berg, MD, PhD, and David Friedman, MD, are the award recipients.

The awards were established two years ago through a generous gift from Sheldon Simon and Ruth Moorman to help train the next generation of outstanding biomedical researchers and to support the field's brightest minds in their pursuit of novel scientific ideas.

"These awards are named in honor of Harold Dvorak, MD, a pioneering BIDMC researcher whose groundbreaking work in the field of angiogenesis helped pave the way for an entirely new approach to cancer therapeutics," said BIDMC Chief Academic Officer Vikas P. Sukhatme, MD, ScD. "The goal of these awards is to ensure that young investigators are able to establish their own laboratories and pursue similarly creative and even unconventional ideas that will ultimately improve the lives of patients everywhere."

Berg and Friedman are working with BIDMC Chief of Nephrology Martin Pollak, MD, to understand genetic changes that lead to injury in the kidney. This research builds on the seminal work of Pollak and Friedman, which identified variants in a gene called APOL1 that explain why African Americans develop kidney failure at much higher rates than other groups.

"A key focus of these awards is to promote clinically relevant, interdisciplinary innovation," added Sukhatme. "Drs. Berg's and Friedman's research aims to develop treatments for APOL1 kidney disease, and this particular project promises to help doctors identify individuals at the earliest signs of disease, when therapeutic interventions may be most helpful."

Dr. Berg is Assistant Director of Clinical Chemistry in BIDMC's Department of Pathology and Assistant Professor of Pathology at Harvard Medical School. His two principal research interests focus on the physiology of vitamin D deficiency and the toxicity of and improved treatment for chronic uremia, a syndrome of hormonal and metabolic imbalances in patients with kidney disease. Berg has been using his expertise in mass spectrometry and in the development of novel clinical blood tests to identify patients at risk for APOL1-associated hypertension and kidney disease.

Dr. Friedman is a clinician-investigator in the Division of Nephrology and Assistant Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School. His research spans human genetics, animal models and basic molecular biology with the goal of understanding the causes underlying chronic kidney disease. His research efforts focus on the African-American population and a group of agricultural plantation workers in Central America who suffer from an unexplained epidemic of kidney disease called Mesoamerican nephropathy. In this collaborative project with Drs. Pollak and Berg, Friedman is working to develop a urine-based test that will indicate active APOL1 kidney disease.

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About Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center

Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center is a patient care, teaching and research affiliate of Harvard Medical School and consistently ranks as a national leader among independent hospitals in National Institutes of Health funding.

BIDMC is in the community with Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital-Milton, Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital-Needham, Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital-Plymouth, Anna Jaques Hospital, Cambridge Health Alliance, Lawrence General Hospital, Signature Healthcare, Beth Israel Deaconess HealthCare, Community Care Alliance and Atrius Health. BIDMC is also clinically affiliated with the Joslin Diabetes Center and Hebrew Rehabilitation Center and is a research partner of Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center and The Jackson Laboratory. BIDMC is the official hospital of the Boston Red Sox. For more information, visit http://www.bidmc.org.

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