Alicia Martin, Miguel Reyes, and Shira Weingarten-Gabbay are the latest Broadies to be awarded grants from BroadIgnite, which funds high-risk, high-reward projects.
BroadIgnite is a funding opportunity that connects emerging philanthropists with early-career scientists to catalyze potentially transformative ideas. Eligible Broadies can apply anytime, and awards are made on a rolling basis as funds become available. See the BroadIgnite RFA to learn more about the eligibility requirements and application process.
European ancestry populations, which compose just 16 percent of the global population, make up about 80 percent of participants in genetic studies. Thus, research short-changes almost all other populations and misses vital insights into the genetics associated with human health and disease. Alicia wants to help remedy this bias by using her BroadIgnite grant to sequence more than 3,000 genomes from 14 countries spanning sub-Saharan Africa and to ensure the data is widely accessible. Learn more about Alicia's research.
Severe COVID-19 and sepsis share similar symptoms — multi-organ failure, shortness of breath, fever, confusion — and both are associated with dysregulated immune response. Miguel and his team recently discovered another connection: The blood cells of patients with severe forms of these diseases have different baseline gene expression profiles than those with mild infection. With BroadIgnite support, Miguel wants to expand this work to identify which immune response pathways are altered in these patients — and whether they can be harnessed as new treatment avenues. Learn more about Miguel's research.
While antibodies have gained attention in the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s increasingly clear that T cells — which target and destroy pathogen-infected cells — also play an important role in helping patients fight infections and develop immunity. During the past year, Shira led a significant discovery in how T cells help defend against SARS-CoV-2: She identified foreign protein fragments, called peptides, that sit on the surface of SARS-CoV-2–infected cells and signal for help from T cells. BroadIgnite funding will allow Shira to delve deeper into the exact mechanisms that control this response—a crucial line of inquiry that could inform the development of vaccines that better recognize the virus. Learn more about Shira's research.