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Ellison receives Breakthrough Scientist award

Alan Flurry

The Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation announced that University of Georgia faculty member Courtney Ellison is one of seven new recipients of the Damon Runyon-Dale F. Frey Award for Breakthrough Scientists

The Dale F. Frey award recognizes Damon Runyon Fellows who have exceeded the Foundation’s highest expectations and are most likely to make paradigm-shifting breakthroughs that transform the way we prevent, diagnose, and treat cancer. To catapult their research careers—and their impact—Damon Runyon makes an additional investment of $100,000 in these exceptional individuals. 

Ellison, assistant professor in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences department of microbiology, is investigating how single bacterial cells join together to form complex, multicellular structures called biofilms. Biofilms protect bacterial cells from antibiotics and antimicrobial agents, making them difficult to eliminate. Some biofilm-forming species may cause certain cancers, and biofilms of infectious bacteria threaten immunocompromised patients such as those undergoing chemotherapy. Ellison focuses on bacterial appendages called type IV pili that play a crucial role in biofilm formation. Understanding the role of pili and their contribution to biofilm progression may lead to novel therapies to eliminate biofilms. 

"I am very honored and grateful to receive the Dale Frey Award for my work studying how bacteria form biofilms,” Ellison said. “Biofilms are naturally more resistant to antibiotics, making them a public health threat that is difficult to combat. The opportunity to pursue this work opens promising avenues to advance our understanding of how biofilms form so that we can build tools to thwart their development."

The Damon Runyon Fellowship encourages the nation’s most promising young scientists to pursue careers in cancer research by providing them with independent funding ($260,000 total) to investigate cancer causes, mechanisms, therapies, and prevention.  

About the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation 

To accelerate breakthroughs, the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation provides today's best young scientists with funding to pursue innovative research. The Foundation has gained worldwide prominence in cancer research by identifying outstanding researchers and physician-scientists. Thirteen scientists supported by the Foundation have received the Nobel Prize, and others are heads of cancer centers and leaders of renowned research programs. Each of its award programs is extremely competitive, with less than 10% of applications funded. Since our founding in 1946, in partnership with donors across the nation, the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation has invested over $430 million to fund nearly 4,000 scientists. 

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