Aaron T. Whiteley, CU Boulder assistant professor of biochemistry, is one of eight to win this year’s Boettcher Foundation Webb-Waring Biomedical Research Award
A University of Colorado Boulder biochemist is one of eight outstanding biomedical researchers at Colorado institutions who are part of the Boettcher Foundation’s 2022 class of Boettcher Investigators.
He and his colleagues are recipients of grant funding through the Boettcher Foundation’s Webb-Waring Biomedical Research Awards Program.
Aaron T. Whiteley, CU Boulder assistant professor of biochemistry, will conduct up to three years of research focused on novel mechanisms of STING signaling in cancer and other diseases. The award carries $235,000 in research funding.
The prestigious Webb-Waring award supports promising, early career scientific researchers, allowing them to advance their independent research in Colorado and compete for major federal and private awards.
Whiteley said the award will make a “huge difference in my career” and in the future of this project. “I could not be more thrilled to be named a Boettcher Investigator,” he said.
Whiteley’s group works on how immune systems recognize and respond to threats. A few years ago, his group and others found that bacterial and human immune systems have a lot more in common than previously realized.
For example, both use a protein called STING. “We have made advances in understanding how bacteria use STING-like proteins to defeat bacterial viruses (phages),” he said, adding:
“This award will provide critical resources to translate our findings from bacteria into human cells. Our work is particularly exciting because STING is crucial to how the human immune system responds to cancer. We hope to inform design of the next generation of anti-cancer therapeutics with insights from bacteria.”
This year’s class of eight Boettcher Investigators, receiving total awards of $1.88 million, also includes researchers at Colorado State University and National Jewish Health. Each Boettcher Investigator receives a $235,000 grant to support up to three years of biomedical research.
“At a time when we are reminded of how vital biomedical research is to a healthy society, the Boettcher Foundation is honored to invest in these eight exceptional early career researchers as they investigate causes and treatments of disease, injury and more,” said Katie Kramer, president and CEO of the Boettcher Foundation.
“We know the ripple effects of their leading research at our beloved Colorado institutions will have immense beneficial impacts for people far into the future.”
This year’s class brings the total number of CU-selected Boettcher Investigators to 59, representing research awards of more than $13.7 million.
With the newest class, the 12-year-old Webb-Waring Biomedical Research Awards program has accelerated the breakthrough work of 90 Boettcher Investigators.
This award will provide critical resources to translate our findings from bacteria into human cells. ... We hope to inform design of the next generation of anti-cancer therapeutics with insights from bacteria.”
Since 2020, 50% of the investigators have been women researchers, compared to 35% during the program’s first nine years. In total, the researchers have attracted more than $110 million in additional federal, state and private research funding. Additionally, investigators have published more than 100 articles and registered eight patent applications.
“Colorado BioScience Association congratulates the newest class of Boettcher Investigators and thanks the Boettcher Foundation for its vision to advance Colorado’s leadership in health innovation by supporting researchers during the critical, early stages of their careers,” said Elyse Blazevich, Colorado BioScience Association president and CEO.
“The Webb-Waring Biomedical Research Awards program makes a critical contribution to our state’s momentum as a leading national and international hub for life sciences.”
Whiteley earned a PhD in infectious diseases and immunity from the University of California, Berkeley, in 2016. He joined the CU Boulder faculty in 2020.
The other four new Boettcher Investigators in the University of Colorado system are all at the Anschutz Medical Campus. They and their research topics are:
- Martin W. Breuss, PhD; Elucidation of the features of germ cell mosaicism and its impact on human health.
- Shanlee Davis, M.D., PhD; Pathophysiology of cardiometabolic dysfunction in Klinefelter Syndrome.
- Michael S. Leibowitz, M.D., PhD; Altering the tumor microenvironment to increase epitope spreading and augment chimeric antigen receptor T cell therapy for metastatic osteosarcoma.
- Andrew C. Smith, P.T., D.P.T., PhD; Spinal cord lesion determinants of optimal responsiveness to spinal cord stimulation.
The Boettcher Foundation has been a leading philanthropic supporter of biomedical research in Colorado for many years.
For more information about the Webb-Waring Biomedical Research Awards, visit the Boettcher Foundation website.