RS33393 ben larimer 7The UAB Department of Radiology is thrilled to congratulate Benjamin M. Larimer, Ph.D., on being selected as a recipient of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director’s New Innovator Award!

Managed by the NIH Common Fund’s High-Risk, High-Reward Research (HRHR) Program, the NIH Director’s New Innovator Award is an incredibly prestigious award that supports highly innovative and high impact research from exceptionally creative, early career investigators who are within 10 years of their clinical residency or final degree. Dr. Larimer’s award, specifically, will be funded by the National Cancer Institute.

Dr. Larimer’s work is focused on using a new imaging agent targeting granzyme B that he developed to help understand which patients with cancer might benefit from immunotherapy. Immunotherapy can be a very powerful therapy in the fight against cancer, delivering long term remissions in some of the most hard to treat cancers. Sadly, however, it does not work for most patients. 

Dr. Larimer, along with colleagues from UAB Radiology and the O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center, will perform the first human studies to test whether granzyme B imaging can predict who will benefit from immunotherapy. These predictions would show which patients will benefit from immunotherapy and which patients need to be treated with a different therapy that is more beneficial to their individual cancer. Additionally, Dr. Larimer will use this test to attempt to find out why some people don’t respond to immunotherapy and develop new treatment strategies that help to increase the response rate.

“I am very thankful to be given this opportunity by the NIH and am lucky to be surrounded by world-class colleagues both in the UAB Department of Radiology and the O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center,” said Larimer. “It has been a goal of mine to create something that has an impact on the way cancer treatment is managed, and I am excited to be able to continue working hard to provide patients and oncologists a tool to help in the fight against cancer.” 

The NIH Director’s Awards were established to support unconventional approaches to significant challenges in behavioral and biomedical research. This year, the NIH HRHR Program issued 85 awards totaling roughly $251 million over five years, pending available funds.

“The breadth of innovative science put forth by the 2020 cohort of early career and seasoned investigators is impressive and inspiring," said NIH Director Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D. “I am confident that their work will propel biomedical and behavioral research and lead to improvements in human health.”

The NIH released their official announcement regarding the High-Risk, High-Reward Research Program award recipients on October 6, 2020. You can view the press release here.


Benjamin M. Larimer, Ph.D., received his B.S. and Ph.D. in Biochemistry from the University of Missouri. He then studied at Massachusetts General Hospital and the Harvard Medical School for his postdoctoral fellowship, prior to joining the UAB Department of Radiology as an assistant professor in 2019. Dr. Larimer’s research interests focus on the development of new biological imaging agents for characterizing the effectiveness of cancer therapy with a focus on cancer immunotherapy. 


PI: Benjamin M. Larimer, Ph.D.
Project Title: Site-Specific Immune Cell Activation Detection for Improving Individualized Cancer Immunotherapy
Award: NIH Director’s New Innovator Award
Grant Number: DP2 CA261453-01
Funded by the National Cancer Institute