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Distinguished Investigators

Investing a lifetime of innovation

Since 1998, Women’s Health Research at Yale’s Pilot Project Program has become a national model. The program provides seed money for Yale faculty to generate the data necessary to secure larger external grants. This new funding propels larger investigations on women’s health and sex and gender differences.

To date, WHRY has funded more than 95 projects. And 61 percent of the researchers have secured external funding. That's more than three times the success rate for new investigator-initiated applications at the National Institutes of Health. Seventy-one percent of our funded researchers have been junior or mid-level faculty. And many have gone on to make significant achievements throughout their distinguished careers. Here are three WHRY grant recipients whom we are very proud to count among our growing group of talented and innovative collaborators.

Akiko Iwasaki, Ph.D.

Photo by Robert A. Lisak

Waldemar Von Zedtwitz Professor of Immunobiology and Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology; Professor of Molecular Cellular and Developmental Biology; Investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute

In response to the coronavirus pandemic, WHRY launched a new study in which Dr. Akiko Iwasaki identified significant differences in how the immune systems of women and men respond to the virus that causes COVID-19. Men are more likely to experience more severe cases and die from the illness.

Earlier, Dr. Iwasaki used a pair of WHRY Pilot Project grants to develop her “prime and pull” strategy. This stimulates the body’s immune response and draws disease-fighting cells to the location of sexually transmitted infections (STIs). These pilot projects created the necessary data to earn her larger funding from the National Institutes of Health for studies that have established groundbreaking insights into the transmission, treatment, and possible prevention of STI’s. Recently elected to the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Medicine for her outstanding research achievements, Dr. Iwasaki is working toward clinical trials that could relieve the suffering of millions of people, the majority of whom are women.

"WHRY’s Pilot Project Program offers researchers at Yale the opportunity to explore vital questions that would otherwise not receive funding. If you don’t invest in this type of early stage research, you won’t have any breakthroughs."

Peter Salovey, Ph.D.

Photo by Michael Marsland

President of Yale University; Chris Argyris Professor of Psychology

Dr. Salovey demonstrated the efficacy of public health messages now regularly deployed to encourage women at elevated risk for breast cancer to use routine mammography screening. In his WHRY-funded study, Dr. Salovey found that medical practitioners should tailor health messages to a patient’s information-processing style. For example, a woman may be more likely to respond to positive messages about how screening could help her, rather than negative messages about how choosing not to undergo screening might cost her. Dr. Salovey found that such patient-specific strategies result in increased rates of mammography screening for early breast cancer detection.

"As an early awardee of one of WHRY’s pilot grants, I was able to develop and test public health messages that encourage women at elevated risk for breast cancer to use routine mammography screening. This work led to a longer-term program of research funded by the National Cancer Institute. Thank you for ensuring that Yale is at the forefront of understanding how gender and sex influence health and illness and for educating health professionals and members of the community."

Peter Glazer, MD, Ph.D.

Robert E. Hunter Professor of Therapeutic Radiology and Professor of Genetics; Chair, Department of Therapeutic Radiology

As a professor of both therapeutic radiology and genetics, Dr. Peter Glazer researches new therapeutic strategies for treating cancer and the role of altered DNA repair in tumor progression. With a WHRY Pilot Project grant, Dr. Glazer discovered that a lupus antibody can penetrate cancer cells and sensitize them to radiation and chemotherapy. He continues to advance this method for treating cancer, particularly those that develop from inherited mutations to the tumor-suppressing BRCA2 gene. His research was recently recognized by the National Cancer Institute with a prestigious Outstanding Investigator Award that will support his efforts to develop novel DNA repair inhibitors for cancer therapy.

“The approach of Women’s Health Research at Yale in spurring investigation makes it possible for researchers to explore new ideas and develop innovative treatment strategies. Their focus on women is essential within science, and their design for exploration across disciplines extends the leading edge of our knowledge and capabilities.”