Gul Dolen, M.D., Ph.D., an assistant professor of neuroscience at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine is one of the 12 recipients of The Hartwell Foundation’s 2015 Individual Biomedical Research Award competition. Each award will provide research support for three years at $100,000 per year.
Dolen will take a novel approach to studying autism, a disorder of brain development characterized by dysfunctional social behaviors and communication. She will seek to identify the brain cells responsible for imagining the world from another person’s point of view — an ability crucial to healthy social interaction. She plans to then develop a highly targeted therapy to stimulate those brain cells to alleviate the symptoms of autism.
“Funding from The Hartwell Foundation is critical this project, since this approach is both novel and risky, but it nevertheless has the potential to help many children and their families,” Dolen says.
Each year, The Hartwell Foundation selects a limited number of research institutions to nominate candidates for its Individual Biomedical Research Award. Johns Hopkins has been selected as one of the foundation’s Top Ten Centers of Biomedical Research in the United States every year since the program began in 2006, and a total of eight researchers from Johns Hopkins have been named Hartwell Investigators.
Dolen earned an M.D. from Brown University and a Ph.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where she studied the autism spectrum disorder Fragile X syndrome. She then completed a postdoctoral fellowship at Stanford University before joining the Johns Hopkins faculty last year. Her awards and honors include the 2014 Society for Social Neuroscience Early Career Award, the 2008 Joukowsky Family Foundation Outstanding Dissertation Award, the 2008 Sigma Xi Outstanding Graduate Student Research Award, the 2007 Rising Star Award from the Conquer Fragile X Foundation and the 2006 Angus MacDonald Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching.
The primary mission of The Hartwell Foundation is to grant awards to individuals for innovative biomedical applied research that will potentially benefit children in the United States. Funds are provided for early-stage research projects that might not yet qualify for funding from traditional sources.