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2019 Vallee Scholars Announced

Boston, MA - September 2019 - Five exceptional young scientists have been chosen from a nominated pool of brilliant young minds to become this year’s Vallee Scholars. The Vallee Scholar program provides relatively unrestricted funding for national and international junior faculty at a critical stage in their tenure-track careers.  This year’s Vallee Scholars come from Princeton, Stanford, and the University of California, San Francisco in the United States, and from the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) and the University of Jena in Europe.  

Joseph Bondy-Denomy, PhD, is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Microbiology & Immunology at UCSF, where his research focuses on characterizing CRISPR-Cas function in pathogenic microbes and searching for viral and bacterial proteins that modulate or redirect CRISPR-Cas. The Bondy-Denomy lab uses a combination of molecular, microbiological, biochemical, and bioinformatics approaches to identify and characterize bacteriophase strategies for inhibition of bacterial immunity and is currently pursuing the discovery of new bacterial immune systems and phage-host interaction paradigms.

Lisa Giocomo, PhD, is an Assistant Professor of Neurobiology at Stanford University School of Medicine where she is exploring the neural mechanisms that underlie cognitive behavior.  To do this, her lab is studying navigation, a cognitive behavior that allows us to estimate our position in the world, remember where we have been and plan future trajectories through the world.  Medial entorhinal neurons transform diverse sensory inputs into an internal map of space that exists entirely within the brain itself. By combining large-scale electrophysiology and imaging with computational approaches, the Giocomo lab aims to reveal universal principles underlying how neurons in high-order cortical regions integrate multimodal environmental features to support cognition.

Johannes Gräff, PhD, is an Assistant Professor at the Brain Mind Institute of the School of Life Sciences at EPFL, Switzerland, where he is interested in the cellular and molecular mechanisms of memory formation, storage and decline. To investigate these, the lab focuses on the emerging field of neuroepigenetics, which might constitute a novel angle on how to counteract dwindling memory capacities such as in Alzheimer’s disease, and particularly strong memories such as in PTSD.

Kai Papenfort, PhD, is a Professor of Microbiology at the University of Jena where his research focuses on the regulatory roles of non-coding RNAs and how these control complex microbial behaviors.  He is interested in understanding the mechanistic principles underlying sRNA-mediated gene regulation in bacterial pathogens, including the roles of auxiliary protein factors involved, e.g. RNA chaperones and ribonucleases, with an eye to harnessing this information to design synthetic RNAs with tailored regulatory functions.

Jared Toettcher, PhD, is an Assistant Professor of Molecular Biology at Princeton University, where his research focuses on cracking the code of how cell signaling patterns control cell fate.  Using cellular optogenetics, Toettcher and his lab are able to precisely control protein activity using light, which can activate a desired protein species without off-target effects.  Toettcher will apply these tools to understand the molecular assemblies that regulate immune cell activation. 

Vallee Scholars

The Vallee Scholars Program recognizes outstanding early career scientists at a critical juncture in their careers.  It provides $300,000 in discretionary funds, to be spent over four years, for basic biomedical research.  Candidates are competitively selected based on their originality, innovation, and quality of the proposal as evidenced by ideas and execution, and record of accomplishment.    

About the Vallee Foundation

The Vallee Foundation was established by Bert and Kuggie Vallee as their legacy to the advancement of medical science and medical education.  The Foundation stimulates development of interdisciplinary sciences related to human health by promoting interaction between productive scientists worldwide.  More information is available online:

Or contact Alexa M Mason, Executive Director, The Vallee Foundation: