Dr. Channabasavaiah Gurumurthy, left, and Australian researcher Dr. Gaetan Burgio. Gurumurthy, with the University of Nebraska Medical Center, received one of six new young innovator awards from the National Institutes of Health for his research in genomics. The award is expected to total about $500,000 a year over a five-year period.

A University of Nebraska Medical Center researcher has received one of six new young innovator awards from the National Institutes of Health aimed at accelerating research in genomics.

Dr. Channabasavaiah Gurumurthy has been working to develop and improve the gene editing tools used to create the kinds of designer mice scientists use to study diseases and potential treatments.

Two years ago, he and his team and their collaborators developed a twist on the gene editing tool CRISPR called Easi-CRISPR, which allows researchers to make genetic changes more quickly, efficiently and inexpensively than with the original.

In applying for the Genomic Innovator Award, Gurumurthy proposed using Easi-CRISPR and technologies like it to help reduce the time it takes to produce such mice for research from as many as four years to one. That’s significant, given 70% of NIH grant applications involve mouse models.

“If I solve this problem, even if I solve part of this problem, it can have a wide and significant impact down the line,” said Gurumurthy, an associate professor of pharmacology and experimental neuroscience at UNMC.

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The award is expected to total about $500,000 a year over a five-year period, or up to $2.5 million. NIH officials said the awards were intended to “help talented investigators pursue their research ideas in a highly nimble fashion.”

Gurumurthy said he proposed the mouse model project based on the tools available today. But the award gives him the flexibility to follow other promising leads as they come along.

The five other recipients represent some of the largest research institutions in the country, including Harvard Medical School, Massachusetts General Hospital and Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

In a separate study published recently, Gurumurthy and an Australian researcher recently led a collaboration that compared the first CRISPR method published six years ago with newer methods, including Easi-CRISPR.

They found the newer methods were between 10 and 20 times more efficient than the original approach.

Julie Anderson is a medical reporter for The World-Herald. She covers health care and health care trends and developments, including hospitals, research and treatments. Follow her on Twitter @JulieAnderson41. Phone: 402-444-1066.

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