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Steve Hinnefeld
University Communications

Last modified: Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Indiana University chemist Carlson receives NIH Director’s New Innovator award

Sept. 20, 2011

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Erin E. Carlson, an assistant professor of chemistry at Indiana University Bloomington, has been awarded a National Institutes of Health Director's New Innovator Award, intended to stimulate innovative research and support promising new scientists.

The award will provide $1.5 million over five years to support Carlson's research, which deals with developing improved treatments for drug-resistant infections.

Erin Carlson

Photo by IU Photographic Services

Assistant Professor of Chemistry Erin Carlson

Print-Quality Photo

Carlson's award was one of 79 awards totaling $143.8 million announced today (Sept. 20) by the NIH to support innovative ideas that have the potential to propel fields forward and speed the translation of research into improved health for the American public.

The awards are granted under three programs supported by the NIH Common Fund: the NIH Director's Pioneer, New Innovator and Transformative Research Projects Awards. The Common Fund, created by Congress in 2006, supports programs with an emphasis on innovation and risk taking.

"The NIH Director's Award programs reinvigorate the biomedical workforce by providing unique opportunities to conduct research that is neither incremental nor conventional," said James M. Anderson, director of the NIH Division of Program Coordination, Planning and Strategic Initiatives. "The awards are intended to catalyze giant leaps forward for any area of biomedical research, allowing investigators to go in entirely new directions."

The New Innovator Award addresses the fact that many new investigators have innovative research ideas, but not the preliminary data required to fare well in the traditional NIH peer-review system. The NIH created the award to support exceptionally creative new investigators who propose highly innovative projects that have the potential for unusually high impact.

Carlson's award, one of 49 New Innovator awards this year, will fund research aimed at improving public health through the identification of the next generation of antimicrobial therapeutic agents, particularly focusing on more effective and long-lifetime treatments for drug-resistant infections. She and her research team will develop and apply technologies for the discovery of drug leads from nature's vast reservoir of antibacterial natural products from plants and microorganisms.

Carlson, an IU faculty member since 2008, received a bachelor of arts degree at St. Olaf College and a doctoral degree in organic chemistry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and subsequently was awarded an American Cancer Society Postdoctoral Fellowship for studies at the Scripps Research Institute. She was named a 2010 Pew Scholar in the Biomedical Sciences by the Pew Charitable Trusts.

Her research program centers around development and application of advanced chemical biology and systems biology technologies to both define the mechanisms of bacterial pathogenesis and identify potential therapeutic agents. She pursues the development of technologies for natural product discovery, including innovative methods for compound isolation, screening and diversification.

Carlson is an assistant professor in the Department of Chemistry and an adjunct assistant professor to the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry, both in the College of Arts and Sciences at IU Bloomington.

The National Institutes of Health includes 27 institutes and centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. It is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical and translational medical research, and it is investigating the causes, treatments and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information, visit

More information on the Director's New Innovator Award is at Additional information about the NIH Common Fund can be found at

To speak with Carlson, please contact Steve Hinnefeld at the IU Office of University Communications, 812-856-3488 or