UGA professor named Georgia Cancer Coalition Distinguished Scholar

UGA professor named Georgia Cancer Coalition Distinguished Scholar

Athens, Ga. – University of Georgia assistant professor Shaying Zhao is one of 13 scientists named as a Georgia Cancer Coalition Distinguished Cancer Scholar for 2007. She will receive $50,000 in funding annually for five years to support her research efforts. The coalition selects scientists engaged in the most promising areas of cancer research. Zhao’s area of interest is cancer genomics and bioinformatics.

Zhao was recruited from The Institute of Genomic Research in Rockville, Md., where she was an assistant investigator. She is currently an assistant professor in the department of biochemistry and molecular biology in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences and is a member of the Institute of Bioinformatics (IOB) at UGA. She earned her Ph.D. in biochemistry at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln.

“Dr. Zhao brings a unique skill set for the detailed analyses of changes in cancer genomes during the development and progression of cancers, especially colorectal cancer. Her research projects will greatly enhance the cancer programs at UGA,” says Ying Xu, head of the IOB and a Coalition Distinguished Cancer Scholar himself.

Her lab is studying the relationship between the instability that occurs during mammal evolution and that which occurs during cancer initiation and progression. This research has the potential of providing cancer researchers with specific “hotspots” to target to identify cancer genes and lesions. She is also doing analyses to pinpoint colorectal cancer genes.

Since its inception in 2001, the Georgia Cancer Coalition has named 91 Distinguished Scholars. Nine have been named at the University of Georgia.

“The Scholar funding is an investment not only in Georgia’s future as a national leader in cancer control, but it also is valuable in attracting increased funding to Georgia for cancer research,” says Bill Todd, president and chief executive officer of the Georgia Cancer Coalition..

The review committee examines the scholars’ history of grants, publications and patents, and considers the researchers’ potential for attracting future funding. In fiscal year 2006, Georgia Cancer Coalition Distinguished Scholars were responsible for bringing $48 million in privately and federally funded research grants into the state of Georgia.

The University of Georgia matches the coalition’s investment, with the goal of strengthening the state’s research talent, capacity and infrastructure.

Selection is based on how the applicant’s research relates to the goals of the coalition,

the research priorities of the National Cancer Institute and the strategic plan of the sponsoring institution. Each application is reviewed by both an external scientific review

committee and an advisory review committee, appointed by the coalition in cooperation with Georgia’s research universities. Members rank scholars according to predetermined scientific and technical criteria.

“The National Cancer Institute has identified areas of discovery that hold promise for making significant progress against all cancers,” says Todd. “The Distinguished Cancer Clinicians and Scientists program is the cornerstone of the Georgia Cancer Coalition’s efforts to advance scientific discovery into the prevention, treatment, causes and cures of cancer. These scientists play an important role in positioning Georgia as a national leader in cancer research.”

The Georgia Cancer Coalition is an independent, not-for-profit organization that unites government agencies, academic institutions, civic groups, corporations and health care organizations in a concerted effort to strengthen cancer prevention, research and treatment in Georgia, with the ultimate goal of making Georgia one of the nation’s premier states for cancer care. The mission is to reduce the number of cancer-related deaths in Georgia. The coalition is the first of its kind in the nation. For further information, the official website is http://www.georgiacancer.org/.