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St. Jude early career researcher awarded NIH innovation grant

Cell biologist awarded grant to “push the boundaries of biomedical science.”

Memphis, Tennessee, October 5, 2022

A molecular biologist, Chi-Lun Chang, looks at a computer image display in his office.

Chi-Lun Chang, Ph.D., is an assistant faculty member in the St. Jude Department of Cell and Molecular Biology.

The National Institutes of Health has bestowed a NIH Director’s New Innovator Award of more than $2.7 million over five years to Chi-Lun Chang, Ph.D., an assistant faculty member in the Department of Cell and Molecular Biology at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. He will explore how subcellular logistical infrastructures connect behavior of individual biomolecules into metabolic pathways and how diseases impair these fundamental processes.

“I am extremely humbled to learn that the NIH recognizes the ideas behind this grant, and I am beyond thrilled to be included in this year’s awardees,” Chang said. “This generous funding opportunity allows us to integrate cutting-edge technologies to tackle fundamental questions in cell biology. We are hoping that our research will lead to actionable insights into diseases involved in aberrant metabolism, such as cancers and neurological disorders.”

Chang joined St. Jude in 2021. His research focuses on how inter-organelle logistical infrastructures regulate biosynthetic and bioenergetic machineries. His team applies newly developed synthetic biology and imaging technologies to investigate the dynamic spatial organization of those logistics.

Recipients of the Director’s New Innovator Award have completed either their doctoral degrees or postgraduate clinical training within the last 10 years and have never received a substantial NIH independent research award.  The award is part of the High Risk, High Reward program, which supports exceptional early career investigators who propose innovative, high-impact projects in biomedical, behavioral, or social sciences within the NIH mission. Funding for the grant comes from NIH’s Common Fund, which encourages collaboration and supports a series of exceptionally high-impact, trans-NIH programs.

The Director’s New Innovator Award was first established by NIH in 2007.

“The science advanced by these researchers is poised to blaze new paths of discovery in human health,” said Lawrence A. Tabak, D.D.S., Ph.D., interim director of NIH, said in a statement.       


St. Jude Children's Research Hospital

St. Jude Children's Research Hospital is leading the way the world understands, treats and cures childhood cancer, sickle cell disease, and other life-threatening disorders. It is the only National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center devoted solely to children. Treatments developed at St. Jude have helped push the overall childhood cancer survival rate from 20% to 80% since the hospital opened more than 60 years ago. St. Jude shares the breakthroughs it makes to help doctors and researchers at local hospitals and cancer centers around the world improve the quality of treatment and care for even more children. To learn more, visit, read St. Jude Progress, a digital magazine, and follow St. Jude on social media at @stjuderesearch.