CSU’s Jesse Wilson Awarded $235K Webb-Waring Early Career Award

Through the support of the Boettcher Foundation, Colorado State University assistant professor Jesse Wilson has received the 2018 Webb-Waring Early Career Investigator Biomedical Research Award, along with $235,000 in research support over three years. The award is designed to provide a foundation for promising early-career biomedical researchers at Colorado research institutions to compete for major federal and private awards. As a Boettcher Investigator, Wilson will develop a new laser microscope to study mitochondria and metabolism. His ultimate goal is to create a cost-effective, noninvasive, painless way to diagnose mitochondrial diseases. Wilson's project could also open new doors to fundamental studies of mitochondria, which are the organelles responsible for 90 percent of our cells' energy demands. Their functioning is as central to human health as breathing, Wilson said. More and more, mitochondrial defects are being implicated in cancer, Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, and many other conditions. Wilson's research could give the world a previously impossible view of mitochondrial functioning. "We want to enable a deeper understanding of how mitochondrial faults contribute to disease and how they can be targeted to improve outcomes," Wilson said. The microscope uses very short laser pulses that can analyze mitochondrial respiratory chain components at picosecond timescales. How molecules handle energy in these extremely short timescales can reveal key information about their structure and surrounding molecules, along with unprecedented detail on mitochondrial functioning. Wilson plans to use these molecular signatures to pinpoint telltale signs of mitochondrial dysfunction. His initial experiments will involve examining mitochondria and tissue from a mouse model of Barth Syndrome, one of the more well-known mitochondrial diseases. What's more, Wilson's plan is to build on existing technology called "confocal reflectance" to directly probe the respiratory chain functions of mitochondria. There is no microscope in the world right now that can do this. "The 2018 class of Boettcher Investigators represents Colorado's most dynamic emerging scientists, leaders who are committed to improving human health," said Katie Kramer, president and CEO of the Boettcher Foundation. "The Boettcher Foundation is honored to support their research at this critical juncture in their careers and to elevate scientific innovation across our state." The Boettcher Foundation is a privately endowed grant-making organization dedicated to assisting, encouraging, and promoting the general well-being of the residents of Colorado. The organization has distributed grants in the areas of education, civics and culture, social services, and health services.