PATH Award offers promise for advancing biomedical science at UW–Madison

July 10, 2018 By Natasha Kassulke

UW–Madison assistant professor of medical microbiology and immunology John-Demian Sauer has been awarded a 2018 Burroughs Wellcome Award for Investigators in the Pathogenesis of Infectious Disease (PATH). The Burroughs Wellcome Fund supports biomedical scientists who are early in their careers and advancing fields in the basic biomedical sciences that are undervalued or underfunded.

Photo: John-Demian Sauer

John-Demian Sauer

Sauer was selected as one of just 12 awardees from an applicant pool of 152. The award provides $500,000 over five years. Sauer’s project is “The war within: Identification and characterization of antibacterial cell intrinsic defenses in the host cell cytosol.” Sauer’s lab studies the tug of war between pathogen and host.

“Understanding bacterial pathogenesis is fundamental to our ability to diagnose, treat and prevent bacterial diseases,” says Norman Drinkwater, interim vice chancellor for research and graduate education. “JD’s Burroughs Wellcome PATH Award has the potential to advance our collective understanding of how infectious diseases work and how health is maintained.”

“I’m incredibly honored to have been awarded the Burroughs Wellcome Fund Investigators in the Pathogenesis of Infectious Disease Award,” Sauer says. “This award was fully unexpected and I am humbled to join a prestigious group of scientists who have previously won this award and used it to transform our understanding of infectious diseases at many levels. The PATH Award provides both the financial resources and a scientific network to move our research program in new directions. To this point my lab has largely focused on bacterial factors that contribute to infectious disease and how we can target these factors to develop novel therapeutics and antibiotics.”

The award provides discretionary funds to pursue high-risk projects studying the mechanisms by which our body combats these pathogens, Sauer says.

“Specifically, we will assess how our cells recognize and ultimately kill invading pathogens, potentially illuminating novel approaches to host targeted therapeutics for treatment of bacterial infections, a therapeutic area that to this point has been inadequately pursued,” he says. “Our goal is to live up to the high standards set by previous PATH awardees and help advance our understanding of both host and pathogen contributions to infectious diseases.”

The Burroughs Wellcome Fund is a private foundation that has been making investments in biomedical research and careers for more than 60 years.