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Infectious disease scholar secures $1.5 million NIH award for creative, high-impact research

Filipa Rijo-Ferreira also named Searle Scholar

Infectious disease expert and UC Berkeley School of Public Health Assistant Professor Filipa Rijo-Ferreira was awarded $1.5 million in October for her “high-risk, high-reward” research on circadian rhythms and parasitic infections by the National Institute of Health (NIH) as a Director’s New Innovator Award recipient. The award supports exceptionally creative, early-career investigators who propose innovative, high-impact projects.

Dr. Rijo-Ferreira is also one of 15 awardees granted $300,000 for the 2023 Searle Scholars Program, which supports “independent research of exceptional young faculty in the biomedical sciences and chemistry.”

An assistant professor of infectious diseases and vaccinology, Rijo-Ferreira joined Berkeley Public Health in 2022 and established a team of nine researchers dedicated to investigating parasitic infections. The awards will both be used to support her lab’s central mission: using molecular parasitology, mosquito development, and immunology to study how the circadian rhythms of parasites affect human diseases such as sleeping sickness and malaria.

“The transition to a faculty position and leading a research team is both exciting and challenging,” Rijo-Ferrreira said. “Being awarded both these competitive awards is super encouraging, it validates that other established scientists find our research program meaningful and innovative.”

Born and raised in Lisbon, Portugal, Rijo-Ferreira has spent the majority of her academic career studying molecular biology and human parasites.