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Dr. Neville Sanjana Granted Prestigious NIH “New Innovator” Award for Genome Editing to Probe the Noncoding Genome

New York, NY  ·  October 5, 2017

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has selected the laboratory of Neville Sanjana, PhD, Core Faculty Member at the New York Genome Center, Assistant Professor of Biology, New York University, and Assistant Professor of Neuroscience and Physiology at NYU School of Medicine, for a coveted “New Innovator” Award. The grant will enable Dr. Sanjana and his team to interrogate the noncoding regions of the genome, which is the 98 percent of the human genome that does not code for proteins. Utilizing advanced genome engineering and high-throughput sequencing, the Sanjana Lab aims to identify the sequences and proteins that govern gene expression.

The award of nearly $2.9 million over five years will support the Sanjana Lab’s work in deciphering the logic of gene regulation through the development of new tools for targeted, precise modifications to the genome. These new genome engineering methods include techniques for denser coverage of noncoding regions, scaling up genetic screens, building multidimensional readouts of noncoding function, and identifying the DNA-binding proteins that are found near functional elements. Using this gene editing toolbox, the Sanjana Lab will test hypotheses that link sequence changes in noncoding regions to relevant biological phenotypes, such as therapeutic resistance in cancer and the development of cortical neurons during early embryogenesis.

“Our lab is delighted to receive support from the New Innovator program, and it will allow us to pursue several riskier projects that have the potential for greater scientific discovery,” said Dr. Sanjana.

In his proposal to the NIH, Dr. Sanjana described his long-term goal to construct a catalog of all functional elements in the noncoding genome and to map their interactions in healthy and disease states. His proposal leverages both established and newly-characterized CRISPR enzymes to build a platform for understanding how noncoding DNA and transcription factors come together in gene regulation. According to Dr. Sanjana, “Although our research into the noncoding genome is rooted in basic science questions, the aim is to generate clinically relevant and actionable discoveries regarding cancer evolution and treatment, as we have done previously with functional screens in the coding genome.”

Dr. Sanjana is a Sidney Kimmel Scholar, Melanoma Research Alliance Young Investigator, Paul Allen Institute Next Generation Leader, and a recipient of the NIH Pathways to Independence Award and was previously a Simons Postdoctoral Fellow with Feng Zhang at the Broad Institute. He holds a BS in Symbolic Systems and a BA in English from Stanford University and a PhD in Brain and Cognitive Sciences from MIT.

Research detailed in this announcement is supported by the National Human Genome Research Institute of the National Institutes of Health under Award Number 1DP2HG010099-01. 

About the New York Genome Center
The New York Genome Center (NYGC) is an independent, nonprofit academic research institution at the forefront of transforming biomedical research and clinical care. Founded as a collaborative venture by the region’s premier academic, medical and industry leaders, the New York Genome Center’s goal is to translate genomic research into new diagnostics, therapeutics and treatments for human disease. NYGC member organizations and partners are united in this unprecedented collaboration of technology, science and medicine, designed to harness the power of innovation and discoveries to advance genomic services. Their shared objective is the acceleration of medical genomics and precision medicine to benefit patients around the world.

Member institutions include: Albert Einstein College of Medicine, American Museum of Natural History, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, Columbia University, Hospital for Special Surgery, The Jackson Laboratory, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York-Presbyterian Hospital, The New York Stem Cell Foundation, New York University, Northwell Health, Princeton University, The Rockefeller University, Roswell Park Cancer Institute, Stony Brook University, Weill Cornell Medicine and IBM. For more information on the NYGC, please visit

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