UW Bioengineering senior fellows Ryan Nagao and Mary Wallingford have received NIH Pathway to Independence Awards (K99/R00). The awards program aims to increase and maintain a strong cohort of new and talented, NIH-supported, independent investigators. Awardees receive support for independent projects that facilitate their transition from postdoctoral research to tenure-track or equivalent faculty positions.

Dr. Nagao received his award through the NIH study section, NIDDK (National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases). He is co-mentored by UW Bioengineering Assistant Professor Ying Zheng and Jonathan Himmelfarb, M.D., UW professor of medicine, holder of the Joseph W. Eschbach Endowed Chair in Kidney Research, director of UW’s Kidney Research Institute and co-director of the Center for Dialysis Innovation.

In his project “A multifaceted approach to modeling vascular dysfunction in kidney disease,” Dr. Nagao will develop a framework for studying renal vascular disease by creating a model of the renal microvasculature environment. This microphysiological system will allow researchers to investigate the factors that contribute to vascular dysfunction, and identify novel therapies to treat renal vascular disease.

Dr. Wallingford’s project, “Determination of maternal-fetal phosphate transport mechanisms and the role of sodium-dependent phosphate transporters in extroembryonic tissues,” advances her work investigating vascular development and pathophysiology of the placenta. The placenta serves an essential role in mediating interaction between the maternal and fetal circulatory systems, and its dysfunction can affect long-term vascular health.

In W. Hunter and Dorothy Simpson Chair and Professor of Bioengineering Cecilia Giachelli’s lab, Dr. Wallingford focuses on placental phosphate transport, a phenomenon essential to cellular energetics, growth and bone biology. Her work includes molecular and cellular studies of placental phosphate transport and calcium-phosphate mineral deposition as they relate to placental function. She also develops new diagnostic approaches to the clinical presentation of placental vascular calcification and insufficiency. Outside the lab, she established the UW Placental Research Network (PRN), which is supported by UW Medicine, UW Pharmacy and the March of Dimes.

In addition to her K99/R00, Dr. Wallingford also holds a 2017 NIH Young Investigator Award from the Perinatal Research Society. She will transition into the R00, or independent investigator, phase of her award in March 2018.