Dr. Ryohei Yasuda Receives Prestigious NIH Transformative Researcher Award

November 28, 2022

MPFI Scientific Director Dr. Ryohei Yasuda has been awarded the NIH Director’s Transformative Research Award (TRA) in the amount $2,026,500 over five years to investigate how cilia on the surface of neurons impact signaling and learning.

With this award, the Yasuda lab will develop and use biosensors to measure signaling in primary cilia in neurons. Each neuron has a single primary cilium, a long thin process protruding from the cell body. Primary cilium acts as an antenna receiver of environmental signals. Defective cilia lead to brain disorders such as autism, intellectual disabilities, mood disorders, etc. However, the role of the primary cilium is not well defined. The Yasuda lab will work to understand the signals that primary cilia are transmitting to neurons and will use newly developed tools to specifically monitor and disrupt this signaling, allowing them to better understand how cilia regulate neuronal activity and plasticity and our brain’s ability to learn and adapt.

“Understanding the incredibly complicated mechanisms of learning and neuronal signaling is a major challenge for all of us in the field of neuroscience. Primary cilia provide important signaling platforms for neuronal plasticity, learning, and memory, but signaling in primary cilia is little understood. I am deeply grateful for the support of the NIH that will enable my lab to examine this unique signaling platform critical for neuronal function.”

Dr. Yasuda receives this TRA award, along with Dr. Eva Anton of University of North Carolina Chapel Hill and Dr. Jeff Lichtman of Harvard University, as part of the NIH Common Fund’s High-Risk, High-Reward Research program (HRHR). The HRHR program identifies research that embodies innovation and pushes the boundaries of our current understanding as it relates to biomedical, behavioral, or social sciences.

Dr. Yasuda has previously received recognition for his cutting-edge research from the NIH, including the prestigious NIH Director’s Pioneer Award in 2015 and the NIH Outstanding Investigator Research Program Award in 2020. Other awards include the Career Award at the Scientific Interface from the Burroughs Wellcome Fund, the Alfred P. Sloan Fellowship, the New Investigator Award from the Alzheimer’s Association, and the Research Award for Innovative Neuroscience from the Society for Neuroscience. He is internationally recognized for his advancements and contributions in a technique called FRET-FLIM which enables his research group to visualize multiple signaling proteins’ activity in a single dendritic spine in real-time.

Dr. Yasuda joined MPFI as a Scientific Director in 2012. Prior to that he was an assistant professor of the Neurobiology department at the Duke University Medical Center. From 2009 to 2012, he also served as an Early Career Scientist at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

 Yasuda received his Ph.D. in physics in 1998 from Keio University Graduate School of Science and Technology in Yokohama, Japan. From 2000 to 2005, he was a post-doctoral fellow at the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, where he began his innovative research into monitoring protein interactions in living cells with high sensitivity and resolution.

Research reported in this publication was supported by the National Institute Of Mental Health of the National Institutes of Healthunder Award Number R01MH132710. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.