Two from Stanford named 2019 Rita Allen Foundation Scholars

The Rita Allen Foundation has named LAUREN O’CONNELL, assistant professor of biology, and VIVIANNE TAWFIK, assistant professor of anesthesiology, perioperative and pain medicine, to its 2019 class of Rita Allen Foundation Scholars, celebrating 10 young leaders in the biomedical sciences whose research holds exceptional promise for revealing new pathways to advance human health.

Vivianne Tawfik
Vivianne Tawfik (Courtesy Jessica Tawfik Hill)

The scholars receive grants of up to $110,000 annually for a maximum of five years to conduct innovative research on critical topics in cancer, immunology and neuroscience – including how novel genes originate and evolve, how the brain controls the perception of pain and how maternal interactions influence neonatal health.

According to a foundation press release, the O’Connell Lab uses a unique biological model – translucent social tadpoles – to uncover how neonates evaluate their nutritional state, recognize their caregivers and communicate to their caregivers that they need food. These studies have implications for informing preventive strategies and treatments for childhood eating disorders and autism spectrum disorders.

The mission of the Tawfik Lab is to do the best clinically informed basic science research to advance our understanding of the neuroimmune contribution to chronic pain. The lab’s research holds a particular focus in understanding the unique underpinnings of various types of chronic pain and how central nervous system glial cells (astrocytes and microglia) contribute to the transition from acute to chronic pain.

Since 1976, the Rita Allen Foundation has invested in more than 175 biomedical scientists at the early stages of their careers, enabling them to pursue research directions with above-average risk and promise.

Learn more about the 2019 scholars and their research on the Rita Allen Foundation website.