Vanderbilt’s Antonis Rokas awarded Searle Scholar grant; Biologist studies the genetics of animal development

A Vanderbilt University biologist who studies the genetics of animal development is one of 15 up-and-coming professors to be named a 2008 Searle Scholar, a distinction accompanied by a $300,000 grant for research.

Antonis Rokas, assistant professor of biological sciences, will use the grant money over three years to study the origins and assembly of the genetic toolkit for animal development. In the long term, he hopes to map the evolution of animals from their single-cell organism predecessors.

"I’m thrilled at this tremendous honor," Rokas said. "The footsteps of those who’ve won this grant at Vanderbilt – researchers like Ken Catania and Kendal Broadie – are large indeed."

Rokas and the other winners were selected from 179 applications from recently appointed assistant professors who were nominated by more than 130 universities and research institutions. The winners were selected based on recommendations from a scientific advisory board of 12 scientists distinguished for their research and leadership in fields of interest to the Searle Scholars Program.

In selecting the Searle Scholars, the board looks for scientists who have demonstrated innovative research with the potential for making significant contributions to biological research over an extended period of time.

The funds that support the awards come from trusts established under the wills of John G. and Frances C. Searle. John Searle was president of G.D. & Searle Co., of Skokie, Ill., a research-based pharmaceutical company. The Searle Scholars Program is funded by the grants to The Chicago Community Trust and administered by Kinship Foundation in Northbrook, Ill.

For more information about the Searle Scholars Program, contact Lavinia Tyiran at the Kinship Foundation at (847) 714-1702 or go to

Media Contact: Jim Patterson, (615) 322-NEWS

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