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Dr. Amit Sharma, recipient of the Pathway to Independence Award, studies HIV at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. Photo: Fred Hutch.

For many biomedical researchers, finding funding can be a major challenge. Grants in the field have become increasingly competitive over the last decade, while the amount of funds available has stayed relatively flat.

But one scientist at Seattle’s Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center won’t have to worry about funding for another four years.

Dr. Amit Sharma, who came to Fred Hutch in 2013 after studying molecular genetics, virology and infectious diseases at The Ohio State University, was awarded a 2016 Pathway to Independence Award from the National Institutes of Health, which provides four years of funding for Sharma’s post doctorate research.

Sharma is a postdoctoral fellow in the lab of Dr. Julie Overbaugh, where he and his team are working to create a model of how HIV interacts with the immune system. Sharma also researches HIV transmission between humans and non-human primates, to better understand the virus’s operation.

This research is important to developing and improving “challenge” viruses that are used to test possible HIV vaccines before they are used in human clinical trials.

The award comes with a $692,000 grant funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, which will support Sharma’s research. Last year, Sharma was also awarded a $150,000 fellowship from The Foundation for AIDS Research.

“I am extremely grateful,” Sharma said in a release, adding that he was thankful to Overbaugh for her guidance. He was also excited to learn that his grant application had been given a rare perfect score.

“That was the icing on the cake,” he said.

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