For Sol Schulman, MD, PhD, a principal investigator in the Division of Hemostasis and Thrombosis at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, being awarded a Judith Graham Pool (JGP) Postdoctoral Research Fellowship in 2016 from the National Hemophilia Foundation (NHF) was a significant step in the development of his career as a researcher.
“The NHF JGP award was my first grant,” he says. “The award helped me begin to establish myself as a committed investigator in hemostasis and paved the groundwork for subsequent research funding in this field.”
Since it launched in 1972, the JGP Postdoctoral Research Fellowship has supported the vital work of dozens of new investigators. These committed researchers have improved our understanding of bleeding disorders. Remarkably, unlike many other fellowships that receive substantial industry support, all of the funding for the JGP program comes from donations from NHF chapters, individuals and foundations. The award provides up to $52,000 a year for a maximum of two years and recipients are expected to spend at least 80% of their working time on the funded research project.
Schulman’s project, “Role of Protein Disulfide Isomerase in Prothrombin Activation,” examines a novel strategy to achieve hemostasis that has implications for managing difficult to treat coagulation disorders. As an NHF-funded researcher, he presented his work in progress as a panelist at NHF’s 69th Annual Meeting in 2017. Schulman plans to publish findings developed from the JGP Award research.
Although Schulman says he was committed to hemostasis and thrombosis research, he acknowledges it’s hard to imagine what his future would’ve been like without the support of NHF. “There are many competing time and financial pressures on young investigators,” he says. “NHF provides a necessary path forward that’s enabled me to maintain a focus on bleeding disorder research at a very vulnerable juncture in my career.” Without awards like the JGP Fellowship, he notes, “Fewer investigators would go into hemophilia. People would generate preliminary data in an alternative area where resources were available. This preliminary data would be used to apply for long-term NIH awards in the area of initial research. A moderate investment early will sow the seeds for long-term rewards, while failure to invest means someone else will.”
As important as the financial investment is in helping kick-start and support long-term research, Schulman says the JGP Award has other notable impacts. “The award helped me to develop the mentored training, experience and track record to succeed,” he says. “Beyond the actual funding itself, it provided external validation that my research in hemostasis was competitive and important. I believe this helped me to secure subsequent foundational and NIH funding in this field, and also helped me to negotiate a faculty position with sufficient protected time for research and institutional start-up funding.”
Indeed, Schulman’s experience as a researcher has allowed him the opportunity to open his own lab at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. “My lab is interested in integrating functional genomics, human genetics, biochemistry and cell biology to identify new genes and pathways that influence blood coagulation,” he says. “My sincere hope is that an understanding of these regulators that fine-tune coagulation will enable us to better diagnose and treat individuals with rare bleeding disorders.”
Learn more about the Judith Graham Pool Postdoctoral Research Fellowship.