New awards fund work between U.S., Chinese women scientists

In 2009, cell biologist Lin He changed the direction of her research after a surprisingly fruitful collaboration with a woman scientist in Beijing.

Lin He

Lin He.

The same program that funded that successful project, the Chau Hoi Shuen Foundation Women in Science Program, is now supporting He and two other women faculty for similar collaborations with Chinese women scientists.

He, for example, is receiving her second grant and expects equally exciting results from a new collaboration with a scientist in Shanghai.

“I am very, very grateful for the funding opportunity that gave us the guts in 2009 to do these fishing- expedition experiments that allowed us to explore an area we wouldn’t have otherwise,” said He, an associate professor of molecular and cell biology.

Katharine Hammond, a professor of environmental health sciences in the School of Public Health, is also receiving a one-year grant to expand a 15-year study in Fresno of the impact of pollution on health to a similarly polluted area in northwest China.

Katharine Hammond

Katharine Hammond.

“We want to see if the health effects we see in Fresno on children’s asthma, lung function, immune system and obesity can be replicated elsewhere,” said Hammond. “It’s a small project for only a year, but it could be a springboard to obtain funding for a major study there.”

Kunxin Luo, a professor of molecular and cell biology, is the third 2014-2015 recipient of these $50,000 awards.

The program was first launched in 2008 as the Li Ka Shing Foundation Women in Science Program and funded collaborations between 20 UC Berkeley faculty members and scientists at Chinese universities ranging from Peking University to Tsinghua and Shantou. It was renamed when the Chau Hoi Shuen Foundation renewed the commitment in 2013. The foundation focuses on women’s issues and was founded in 1996 by Solina Chau, director of the Li Ka Shing Foundation, founder of the financial firm Horizons-Victoricoast Ltd. and one of the most influential businesswomen in Hong Kong.

Chau, through her foundation, also generously supports other UC Berkeley programs in the gender and women’s studies program, Chinese history and biological and health sciences.

Kunxin Luo

Kunxin Luo.

Luo is collaborating with Yuhua Xue of the School of Pharmaceutical Sciences at Xiamen University, China, to explore new strategies for preventing breast cancer metastases.

Hammond will work with Junling Wang of the School of Public Health at Lanzhou University to replicate her studies in the United States that have shown genetic changes caused by air pollution, which could potentially harm children’s immune systems.

He will team up with Lixing Zhan of the Institute for Nutritional Sciences at the Shanghai Institute for Biological Sciences to determine how small RNA molecules are involved in the metastasis of lung and breast cancer cells.

Applications for next year’s awards can be submitted later this year.

For more detail on the program and the 2014-15 award recipients, link to http://vcresearch.berkeley.edu/womeninscience/2014-2015-recipients.