Harvard University - Department of Molecular & Cellular Biology


by Cathryn Delude

May 25th, 2011

Briana Burton

Briana Burton, Assistant Professor of Molecular and Cellular Biology (MCB), is one of seven recipients of the 2011 Rita Allen Foundation Scholars award. In addition, she has been chosen from among all the awardees to be named the 2011 Milton E. Cassel Scholar. Milton E. Cassel Scholars receive an extra stipend. All told, she will receive a grant of $110,000 annually for five years.

“It is a great honor to be designated this year's Milton E. Cassel Scholar by the Rita Allen Foundation,” says Burton. “The support from the Foundation will allow us to pursue some of our more ambitious projects designed to understand natural cellular DNA uptake mechanisms and ultimately to harness these mechanisms for therapeutics purposes.”

The Rita Allen Foundation has previously selected 11 Harvard Medical School scientists as Scholars (one shared the award with a University of California, San Francisco researcher), and one of these, Samara Reck-Peterson, was also selected as a Cassel Scholar in 2009. Briana Burton is the first Scholar from the MCB Department.

“The Rita Allen Foundation has a rich history of investing in leaders researching important medical and scientific advancements and breakthroughs,” said Elizabeth G. Christopherson, President and CEO of the Rita Allen Foundation. “Through her proposal and presentation examining the Molecular Mechanism of DNA Uptake by Cells, Professor Burton impressed the members of the Scientific Advisory Committee by effectively demonstrating how her work could result in significant contributions and also earned her the added award of Cassel Scholar.”

According to Christopherson, the Scholars program boasts over 100 outstanding researchers who have contributed greatly to science and medicine, including a Nobel Laureate and several inductees into the National Academy of Sciences. The grants support research scientists in the early stages of their careers, in fields related to analgesics, cancer, immunology, and neuroscience. Proposals are by invitation only and evaluated by the Rita Allen Foundation Scientific Advisory Committee, which is comprised of distinguished scientists and former Scholars. This year, the foundation reviewed twenty-eight Scholar applications from premier institutions across the country and chose five outstanding candidates, and two additional Scholars in conjunction with the American Pain Society. The Scientific Advisory Committee evaluates the research potential, innovation, opportunities for collaboration, likelihood of lasting outcomes, and the leadership qualities demonstrated by the researcher.

The most outstanding Scholar each year is presented with the Cassel Scholar award in memory of Milton E. Cassel, one of the founding forces behind the Rita Allen Foundation who served on the Board of Directors from 1953 until his death in 2004. He was also, he faithfully served on the Board of Directors and was president of the Foundation from the late 1960s until his death.

[May 25th, 2011]