Danielle Grotjahn

Danielle Grotjahn, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Integrative Structural and Computational Biology at Scripps Research, has received an additional Damon Runyon-Rachleff Innovation Award from the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation. This award is granted to exceptionally creative, early-career scientists who show promise in significantly impacting our understanding of and/or approach to the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer.   

Grotjahn is receiving the Stage 2 award after being granted the initial Stage 1 funding two years ago. This second tier is reserved for the awardees who have demonstrated impressive progress on their research to date. After receiving $400,000 in January 2021, Grotjahn will now be granted an additional $400,000 through December 2024 for her groundbreaking research focused on mitochondria.

While the mitochondria are often known as the “powerhouses of the cell,” Grotjahn believes the “stress sensors of the cell” is a more apt name for these organelles. At Scripps Research, Grotjahn is studying how mitochondria change shape in response to genetic, pharmacological and environmental stressors. Her lab is focused on uncovering the different mechanisms that ultimately lead to mitochondrial dysfunction—including in cancer.

This requires Grotjahn and her team to pioneer technologies that can bridge multiple disciplines, including cellular, molecular and structural biology. Her lab uses cryo-electron tomography (cryo-ET) and correlative light and electron microscopy (CLEM)—cutting-edge imaging techniques that can capture cellular networks at an incredibly high resolution. Through these techniques, Grotjahn is determined to finally shed light on how mitochondria influence disease.

Grotjahn is a former Scripps Research Fellow from the Department of Integrative Structural and Computational Biology, and she is the recipient of prestigious awards such as the Baxter Young Investigator Award and the Harold M. Weintraub Graduate Student Award. She received her PhD in biophysics from Scripps Research and a BS in biology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.