Mark Andermann, PhD, Receives 2019 NIH Director’s Pioneer Award

Jacqueline Mitchell (BIDMC Communications) 617-667-7306,

OCTOBER 01, 2019

BOSTON – Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) neuroscientist Mark Andermann, PhD, has received a 2019 NIH Director’s Pioneer Award. Intended to accelerate the pace of biomedical, behavioral, and social science discoveries, the NIH Director’s Pioneer Award challenges investigators at all career levels to pursue new research directions and develop groundbreaking, high-impact approaches to a broad area of biomedical, behavioral or social science.

A primary investigator in the Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism at BIDMC and Assistant Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, Andermann studies the neurobiology of sensory perception. Andermann and his team monitor changes in activity in the same neurons across hours, days, and weeks in behaving mice. While his work previously focused on perception of external stimuli in the environment and their dependence on motivational state, the Pioneer Award will help Andermann expand his lab’s focus.

“At any given moment, our brains must choose to pay attention to the world around us, or to the world inside us,” says Andermann. “So when a doctor asks us how we're feeling, we naturally direct our attention to our bodies and become aware of any salient signals – a process called interoceptive awareness. Yet, despite the broad relevance of interoceptive awareness to both medicine and psychiatry, we know shockingly little about the conditions that regulate our awareness of different body signals, and we know even less about the precise brain circuits that underlie this awareness.”

“Dr. Andermann is an extraordinarily talented young neuroscientist who has used cutting edge 2-photon microscopy to allow us to visualize the activity of large numbers of neurons in the cerebral cortex in real time as an animal is experiencing the world and making decisions,” said Clifford B. Saper, MD, PhD, Chair of the Department of Neurology at BIDMC.  “This work will be extremely important in our understanding the brain circuits that are important in driving behavior.” 

The Pioneer Award is one of four awards introduced by the NIH’s High-Risk, High-Reward Research program, which funds highly innovative and unusually impactful biomedical or behavioral research proposed by extraordinarily creative scientists.  In addition to the Pioneer awards, the High-Risk, High-Reward Research program includes the New Innovator awards for outstanding young investigators which Andermann received in 2014; the Transformative Research awards for interdisciplinary projects; and, the Early Independence awards for exceptional junior scientists. In total, NIH awarded 93 grants for 2019 that will total approximately $267 million over five years, pending available funds in future years.

“Each year, I look forward to seeing the creative approaches these researchers take to solve tough problems in biomedical and behavioral research,” said NIH Director Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D. “I am confident the 2019 cohort of awardees has the potential to advance our mission of enhancing health through their groundbreaking studies.”

About Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center

Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center is a leading academic medical center, where extraordinary care is supported by high-quality education and research. BIDMC is a teaching affiliate of Harvard Medical School, and consistently ranks as a national leader among independent hospitals in National Institutes of Health funding. BIDMC is the official hospital of the Boston Red Sox.

Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center is a part of Beth Israel Lahey Health, a health care system that brings together academic medical centers and teaching hospitals, community and specialty hospitals, more than 4,700 physicians and 39,000 employees in a shared mission to expand access to great care and advance the science and practice of medicine through groundbreaking research and education.