Kelley Yan one of 85 new NIH grants featuring high-risk, high-reward research

October 6, 2020

Kelley Yan, M.D., Ph.D., is a 2020 New Innovator Award Recipient of the National Institutes of Health High-Risk, High-Reward Research (HRHR) Program, for her project Directing Cell Fate Along the Intestinal Enteroendocrine Lineage.

PRESS RELEASE: NIH to support 85 new grants featuring high-risk, high-reward research

Kelley Yan is a physician-scientist with a background in clinical gastroenterology, structural biology, and stem cell biology. She received her MD and PhD degrees from the Mount Sinai School of Medicine and then completed her clinical training in gastroenterology and postdoctoral fellowship in intestinal stem cell biology at Stanford University as a CIRM MD Scholar. Currently she is the Dorothy L. & Daniel H. Silberberg Assistant Professor of Medicine (Division of Digestive & Liver Diseases) and of Genetics & Development at Columbia University Irving Medical Center. Her lab uses multidisciplinary approaches to study the behavior of intestinal stem cells with the ultimate goal of manipulating them for therapeutic benefit. In addition to the NIH Director’s New Innovator Award, she is a recipient of the Burroughs Wellcome Fund Career Award for Medical Scientists, the ASCI Young Physician-Scientist Award, Louis V. Gerstner Foundation Scholars Award, Lisa Dean Moseley Foundation Award, and the Irma T. Hirschl Career Award.

The National Institutes of Health has awarded 85 grants through its High-Risk, High-Reward Research (HRHR) Program that will fund highly innovative and unusually impactful biomedical or behavioral research proposed by extraordinarily creative scientists. Examples of supported research include understanding the role of neighborhoods on urban substance abuse, brain-machine interfaces that allow learning by both brain and machine, engineering multi-organs in a dish, and exploiting latent immune pathways to treat disease. The 85 awards total approximately $251 million over five years, pending available funds.

The High-Risk, High-Reward Research program catalyzes scientific discovery by supporting research proposals that, due to their inherent risk, may struggle in the traditional peer-review process despite their transformative potential. Program applicants are encouraged to think “outside the box” and to pursue trailblazing ideas in any area of research relevant to the NIH’s mission to advance knowledge and enhance health.

“The breadth of innovative science put forth by the 2020 cohort of early career and seasoned investigators is impressive and inspiring," said NIH Director Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D. “I am confident that their work will propel biomedical and behavioral research and lead to improvements in human health.”

The High-Risk, High-Reward Research Program is part of the NIH Common Fund, which oversees programs that pursue major opportunities and gaps throughout the research enterprise that are of great importance to NIH and require collaboration across the agency to succeed. The High-Risk, High-Reward Research program manages the following four awards, including two awards aimed specifically to support researchers in the early stages of their careers:

The NIH Director’s Pioneer Award, established in 2004, challenges investigators at all career levels to pursue new research directions and develop groundbreaking, high-impact approaches to a broad area of biomedical, behavioral, or social science.

The NIH Director’s New Innovator Award, established in 2007, 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.

The NIH Director’s Transformative Research Award, established in 2009, promotes cross-cutting, interdisciplinary approaches and is open to individuals and teams of investigators who propose research that could potentially create or challenge existing paradigms.

The NIH Director’s Early Independence Award, established in 2011, provides an opportunity to support exceptional junior scientists who have recently received their doctoral degree or completed their medical residency to skip traditional post-doctoral training and move immediately into independent research positions.

NIH issued 10 Pioneer awards, 53 New Innovator awards, nine Transformative Research awards, and 13 Early Independence awards for 2020. Funding for the awards comes from the NIH Common Fund; Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development; National Cancer Institute; National Human Genome Research Institute; National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering; National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research; National Institute of General Medical Sciences; National Institute of Mental Health; National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke; and National Institute on Aging.

About the NIH Common Fund: The NIH Common Fund encourages collaboration and supports a series of exceptionally high-impact, trans-NIH programs. Common Fund programs are managed by the Office of Strategic Coordination in the Division of Program Coordination, Planning, and Strategic Initiatives in the NIH Office of the Director in partnership with the NIH Institutes, Centers, and Offices. More information is available at the Common Fund website:

About the National Institutes of Health (NIH): NIH, the nation's medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit

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