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October 05, 2005

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Publication Date: Wednesday, October 05, 2005

People: Another triumph for Pehr Harbury People: Another triumph for Pehr Harbury (October 05, 2005)

What a month for Pehr Harbury, the associate professor of biochemistry at Stanford's School of Medicine, who grew up in Menlo Park and is an alumnus of Oak Knoll and Hillview Middle schools.

On September 15, he learned he had been selected as a MacArthur Fellow -- often called the "genius" award -- and would receive $500,000 over five years, which he plans to spend on his Stanford research.

Then, last week the 40-year-old professor learned he was one of three Stanford School of Medicine scientists -- and 13 researchers nationally -- who were named winners of the National Institutes of Health Director's 2005 Pioneer Awards.

Each winner will receive up to $500,000 annually for five years to fund their research.

"The award was established to encourage researchers to tackle major challenges in biomedical research using innovative approaches that have a high risk of failure but that could produce monumental changes in the field if success," Stanford says in a press release.

Dr. Harbury is looking for ways to use DNA molecules as blueprints for the synthesis of small chemical compounds that may be used to design drugs more quickly and cheaply, Stanford says. "We're trying to put the 'magic' into the magic bullet of drug design," he says.

The other Stanford winners are Dr. Thomas Rando and Dr. Karl Deisseroth.

Dr. Harbury says that part of the reason he chose to come to the Stanford was the school's reputation for "allowing people to go out on a limb and try hard things." That's the kind of research the Pioneer Award seeks to promote.

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