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DDCF Names the 2021 Clinical Scientist Development Award Winners

Seventeen Early-Career Physician Scientists Rise to the Top of a Rigorous Peer-Reviewed Grant Competition to Receive More Than $8.4 Million in Grants to Advance Their Clinical Research.

New York, August 5, 2021 – The Doris Duke Charitable Foundation (DDCF) today announced the 17 early-career physician scientists receiving a collective total of $8.4 million in 2021 Clinical Scientist Development Awards. Each of these exceptional physician scientists will receive grants of $495,000 over three years to advance their important research and support their transition to independent clinical research careers. The recipients emerged from a rigorous, multistage peer review process involving 254 applicants.  

“We are thrilled to congratulate this year’s Clinical Scientist Development Awardees, who rose to the top of a very competitive pool of applicants,” said Sindy Escobar Alvarez, program director for medical research at DDCF. “This is an especially great feat when considering the particular variety of pressures the pandemic has imposed upon physician scientists. With recognition of the invaluable insights their interactions with patients bring to clinical research, we are excited to follow these researchers’ work, which – whether pertaining to infectious or genetic diseases, cancers or Alzheimer’s Disease – holds the potential to make vital contributions to human health.”

The 2021 recipients join a cadre of 337 physician scientists to receive Clinical Scientist Development Awards since the program’s founding in 1998. Through it, the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation has awarded more than $160 million in grants to support physician scientists who are at the early stages of their profession to help them transition to independent research careers. Faced with the competing demands of both caring for patients and conducting research, physician scientists often experience a more challenging transition to an independent research career than other researchers. This award allows these critical contributors to maintain a commitment of 75% of their professional time towards clinical research to facilitate the transition. 

Following a 2015 internal effort to achieve a more gender-neutral selection process, this marks the fifth year in a row that the Clinical Scientist Development Award has received applications from roughly the same number of men and women. The final recipient pool of grantees is also diverse in representation, with 53% of the winning projects led by women and 30% of recipients identifying as Black or Hispanic/Latinx . 

The research projects of the 2021 Clinical Scientist Development Award grantees span a broad range of critical health issues, including, but not limited to cardiology, neurology, immunology and genetics. A list of the 2021 Clinical Scientist Development Award grantees and their project titles can be found below:

Whitney Besse, M.D., Yale School of Medicine
“CRISPR Knockout Screen with Multifaceted Validation for Effectors of Polycystin-1”

Ross M. Boyce, M.D., M.S., University of North Carolina School of Medicine
“Getting Malaria ‘Off the Backs’ of Women and Children in Rural Western Uganda”

Diane Chan, M.D., Ph.D., Massachusetts General Hospital
“Leveraging Non-Invasive Gamma Entrainment to Prevent Alzheimer’s Disease”

Lauren M. Cohee, M.D., M.S., University of Maryland School of Medicine
“Clinical Trial to Evaluate Intermittent Screening and Treatment with High Sensitivity Rapid Diagnostic Tests and Intermittent Preventative Treatment of Malaria in Asymptomatic Schoolchildren to Decrease Plasmodium falciparum Infection and Transmission”

Michael C. Haffner, M.D., Ph.D., Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center
“Assessing Tumor Heterogeneity in Advanced Metastatic Prostate Cancer”

Brian P. Hafler, M.D., Ph.D., Yale School of Medicine
“Single-Cell Reconstruction of Astrocytes in Human Age-Related Macular Degeneration”

Alexander C. Huang, M.D., Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania
“Shared Antigen and Neoantigen-Specific T Cells in Checkpoint Blockade Efficacy and Toxicity”

Robbie G. Majzner, M.D., Stanford University School of Medicine
“Deciphering Response and Resistance in a Clinical Trial of Anti-GD2 and Anti-CD47 Antibodies in Children with Cancer”

Michael B. Miller, M.D., Ph.D., Brigham and Women’s Hospital
“Early Mechanisms of Genomic Somatic Mutation in Alzheimer’s Disease Single Neurons”

Jennifer M. Rosenbluth, M.D., Ph.D., University of California, San Francisco
“Reversion of Aging-Associated Cell Lineage Changes in the Breast for Cancer Prevention”

Elsie G. Ross, M.D., M.Sc., Stanford University School of Medicine
“The Application of Deep Learning for Automated Vascular Imaging Analysis”

Robert M. Samstein, M.D., Ph.D., Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai
“Unraveling Immune Surveillance in Microsatellite-Unstable Cancers”

Carolina Solis-Herrera, M.D., University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio
“SGLT2 Inhibitors, Ketones and Cardiovascular Benefit”

Teresa Sparks, M.D., M.A.S., University of California, San Francisco
“Applying Genomic Sequencing to Understand and Improve Care for Pregnancies with Non-Immune Hydrops Fetalis”

Justin Taylor, M.D., Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Miami Health System
“Investigating Mechanisms of Resistance to Non-Covalent BTK Inhibition in Patients with B-Cell Malignancies”

Laura Vella, M.D., Ph.D., Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia
“Precision Measurement of Vaccine Readiness After Chemotherapy and Transplantation”

Celestine N. Wanjalla, M.D., Ph.D., Vanderbilt University Medical Center
“Understanding the Role of Cytotoxic CD4+ T Cells in Cardiovascular Disease Progression in Persons with HIV”

About the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation
The mission of the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation is to improve the quality of people’s lives through grants supporting the performing arts, environmental conservation, child well-being and medical research, and through preservation of the cultural and environmental legacy of Doris Duke’s properties. The foundation’s Medical Research Program supports clinical research that advances the translation of biomedical discoveries into new preventions, diagnoses and treatments for human diseases. Learn more at


Kristin Roth-Schrefer, Communications Director | 212.974.7003

Delaney Dryfoos, Communications Assistant | 212.974.7006