By being named a 2013 Pew Scholar, Children’s Hospital investigator Claudio Giraudo, PhD, joins a “prestigious community of Nobel laureates, MacArthur fellows, Albert Lasker Basic Medical Research Award winners, and hundred of other pioneers who earned Pew grants at the start of their careers.” The Pew Scholars are each awarded $240,000 over four years to conduct their research, and Dr. Giraudo is one of just 22 researchers to be selected out of 134 nominated.

The Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences “identifies and invests in talented researchers in medicine or biomedical sciences,” enabling “promising scientists to take calculated risks and follow unanticipated leads to advance human health,” according to the Pew website. Since 1985, Pew has awarded more than 500 investigators over $130 million in research funding.

After receiving his doctorate in cell biology and biochemistry from the National University of Cordoba, Argentina in 2002, Dr. Giraudo went on to do postdoctoral research at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, Columbia University and Yale University. In 2012 he joined the faculty of Children’s Hospital and the University of Pennsylvania as an assistant professor of pathology and laboratory medicine.

Dr. Giraudo’s lab studies “intracellular membrane trafficking and calcium-regulated exocytosis in eukaryotic cells,” researching how immune cells secrete granules that destroy infected cells. With the support of the Pew Scholar grant, Dr. Giraudo hopes “to identify the protein machinery cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTLs) use to secrete granules that break down cells.” A type of white blood cell, CTLs target and kill other cells, including cancer cells and cells that have been infected with viruses.

“This award will give me the chance to study what happens at the cell membrane during the body’s immune response, which could be therapeutically targeted to improve prognosis and quality of life of patients,” Dr. Giraudo said.

In addition to better understanding cell-mediated killing, the Pew-supported research project could also shed light on how similar processes lead to disease, such as in diabetes and brain disorders, he added.