Neuroscientist Lindsay Schwarz receives a 2019 NIH Director’s Award for High-Risk, High-Reward Research

Grant award funds “highly innovative, high-impact” biomedical research potential for broad impact across scientific fields.

Lindsay Schwarz, PhD

Lindsay Schwarz, PhD, an assistant member in the Developmental Neurobiology Department at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, has won a prestigious early career award from the National Institutes of Health. The High-Risk, High-Reward Research program supports exceptionally creative scientists pursuing research that has potential for broad impact in biomedical, behavioral or social sciences.

Schwarz is receiving the NIH Director’s New Innovator Award, which supports unusually innovative research from early career investigators who are within 10 years of their final degree or clinical residency and have not yet received a research project grant or equivalent NIH grant. This award is one of four types of awards in the High-Risk, High-Reward Research program.

Schwarz, who joined St. Jude faculty in 2017, oversees her own lab in the Neural Circuits and Behavior division, which works to understand how neurons in the nervous system are organized to promote behaviors and how disruption within neural circuits promotes neurological disease. Schwarz’s research focuses on a particular class of cells in the brain called norepinephrine neurons.  Her team also works to create new molecular tools that target neural circuits in the brain with improved accuracy and resolution.

“Using these tools, we will address how a discrete neural circuit, the locus coeruleus (LC), promotes a wide range of arousal-related behaviors,” Schwarz said. “As the LC has long been implicated in mood disorders like depression and anxiety, this work also sets the stage for uncovering how particular alterations in the LC system could promote specific symptoms of these diseases.”

The NIH award recognizes that tools developed by the Schwarz lab will be useful for neuroscientists studying a wide range of topics, and may even be useful for targeting specific cell populations outside of the brain. The award, to be funded over five years, will be used to further this work.

“Our plan to develop new intersectional tools that target cells based on multiple features should facilitate scientific discovery across biological fields,” Schwarz said.

“Each year, I look forward to seeing the creative approaches these researchers take to solve tough problems in biomedical and behavioral research,” said NIH Director Francis S. Collins, MD, PhD. “I am confident the 2019 cohort of awardees has the potential to advance our mission of enhancing health through their groundbreaking studies.”

The NIH awarded 93 grants in the 2019 cohort, totaling approximately $267 million, pending available funds. Funding for the awards comes from the NIH Common Fund; National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health; National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering; National Institute of General Medical Sciences; National Institute of Mental Health; National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke; National Institute on Aging; National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism; and National Institute on Drug Abuse.