Chemistry’s Hananya named Damon Runyon Fellow

By Wendy Plump
Friday, Jan. 29, 2021

Nir Hananya, a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Chemistry’s Muir Lab, has been named a Damon Runyon Fellow by the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation. 

Hananya is one of just 15 scientists honored with this prestigious fellowship, which recognizes outstanding early-career researchers across the country conducting basic and translational cancer research. Hananya’s research “will provide vital information on cancer genesis and progression, and will contribute to the development of new therapies,” according to the Foundation press release.

Nir Hananya, researcher for the Muir Lab and newly minted Damon Runyon Fellow.
Nir Hananya, researcher for the Muir Lab and newly minted Damon Runyon Fellow.
Photo by C. Todd Reichart

The fellowship encourages the nation's most promising young scientists to pursue careers in cancer research by providing them with independent funding of $231K over four years to work on innovative projects.

“I was really excited to hear the news about getting this fellowship,” said Hananya, who is advised by Tom Muir, the Van Zandt Williams Jr. Class of 1965 Professor of Chemistry. “The fun part was telling the good news to all the people who have been a part of this achievement: my fantastic advisors, both my PhD advisor back in Israel and my postdoc advisor, Tom; and my parents, wife and kids. 

“Getting this award allows me to be more focused on my research, as I don’t need to be as concerned about funding,” he said. “The fact that the award runs over several years will definitely allow for more in-depth research.”

Yung Lie, president and CEO of the Foundation, said: “Historically, Damon Runyon Fellows have gone on to become leaders in cancer research, making discoveries that are not only consequential in their field but also for the lives of patients. We are excited to welcome these brilliant scientists from across the country into their ranks.” 

Hananya is investigating a component of the DNA repair machinery termed protein ADP-ribosylation. Our cells are constantly exposed to chemicals and electromagnetic radiation harmful to DNA. Since the integrity of our genetic material is critical, cells have evolved a variety of mechanisms to repair lesions in the DNA. But defects in these DNA repair pathways caused by genetic mutations can lead to genomic instability, which drives cancer development. Hananya is utilizing chemical biology to study ADP-ribosylation and to delineate its role in DNA repair. 

Aaron Lin, a postdoc with the Department of Molecular Biology, was also named a fellow this cycle. His advisors are Alexander Ploss and Britt Adamson. Lin is studying how hepatitis C virus rewires cell biology and causes liver cancer.

Read the full press release here: http://bit.ly/3qXEPzm.