Brian Koss, Ph.D., a researcher with the UAMS Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute, is the state’s first recipient of the prestigious National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director’s Early Independence Award, UAMS officials announced Monday.
Part of the High-Risk, High-Reward Research program, the Early Independence Award supports outstanding junior scientists with the intellect, scientific creativity, drive and maturity to bypass the traditional postdoctoral training period to launch independent research careers.
Koss joins an elite group of only 13 2021 NIH Director’s Early Independence Award recipients in the U.S. from such institutions as Stanford, Harvard, Johns Hopkins, Mount Sinai, Vanderbilt and Columbia. He will receive a five-year, nearly $1.9 million grant to fund his highly specialized cancer research at UAMS.
“This award provides a tremendous opportunity to expand my research on immune-based therapies for cancer,” said Koss. “I plan to use the Early Independence Award to build a team of researchers who will be crucial for establishing an innovative and collaborative research laboratory.”
In addition to being the first Arkansan to receive the award, Koss is only the second recipient from an NIH-designated Institutional Development Award (IDeA) state, a group of 23 states plus Puerto Rico that have historically received lower research funding, according to a press release.
A Mountain Home native, Koss completed his undergraduate degree in biology at Hendrix College in Conway, where he got his first exposure to undergraduate research. He went on to work as a research technician at St. Jude Children’s Hospital in Memphis after college. He returned to Arkansas in 2015 to begin graduate studies at UAMS, where he earned a Ph.D. in 2020.