UC Santa Barbara's Craig Montell is the recipient of a 2015 National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director's Pioneer Award worth $500,000 per annum over five years. The Pioneer Award supports individual scientists of exceptional creativity, who propose pioneering and transforming approaches to major challenges in biomedical science.
Montell will use the funding for research that ultimately could greatly reduce the spread of insect-borne diseases, which affect hundreds of millions of people per year. "Our plan has enormous potential for curtailing diseases such as dengue fever, which is on the rise," said Montell, the Patricia and Robert Duggan Professor of Neuroscience in UCSB's Department of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology (MCDB).
"Our campus is honored and I am personally just thrilled by the exciting news that Duggan Professor Craig Montell has received the prestigious Pioneer Award from NIH," said UCSB Chancellor Henry Yang. "This well-deserved award recognizes Professor Montell's fundamental discoveries at the frontiers of biological sciences. His research on mosquitos is leading to the launch of a new field in curtailing insect-borne diseases, which will have rich consequences in improving quality of life across the globe."
The current approach to dealing with the spread of dengue fever involves the release of transgenic male mosquitoes bearing mutations that upon mating render indigenous females either sterile or unable to reproduce the flavivirus that causes the disease. However, transgenic males do not compete adequately with native males, limiting the feasibility of this otherwise promising approach.