Dr. Steven Jonas, clinical instructor of pediatrics in the division of pediatric hematology/oncology in the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, has received a five-year $1.25 million grant from the National Institutes of Health through its High-Risk, High-Reward Research Program.

The NIH Director’s Early Independence Award will support Jonas’ work developing new technologies to manufacture treatments that use genetically engineered cells as therapies for people with cancer and other life-threatening genetic diseases. This award is bestowed by the NIH only to “exceptionally creative scientists” working on highly innovative, high-impact biomedical research. The award also helps junior scientists, like Jonas, move into independent research positions.

“As a physician, I see firsthand that there is a need for new tools to really move forward with how we treat and manage our patients’ conditions,” said Jonas, who is also a scientist at the UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center. “And as a scientist and engineer, I am able to serve as that bridge or nexus between the nanoscience community and medicine to find ways we can bring and apply the technologies that we are working on to address real-world clinical problems.”

Jonas’ goal as he establishes his research program at UCLA is to bring new people from diverse scientific backgrounds together to explore solutions to the complex challenges that physicians and researchers face in bringing gene and cellular therapies to patients. His team is currently developing technologies using soundwaves and other stimuli to deliver gene-editing machinery into cells to produce these treatments more quickly, safely and effectively. This research program is enabled by Jonas’ multidisciplinary expertise as a physician scientist and engineer.

Jonas is also a member of the Eli and Edythe Broad Center of Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Research, the California NanoSystems Institute and the UCLA Children’s Discovery and Innovation Institute.