Postdoc Tewodros “Teddy” Godebo Receives Prestigious NIH Grant

May 27, 2015

Tim Lucas, 919-613-8084,

Tewodros “Teddy” Rango Godebo, a postdoctoral researcher in earth and ocean sciences at Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment, has been awarded a National Institutes of Health K99/ROO award, also called the NIH Pathway to Independence Award.

Godebo studies how naturally occurring contaminants such as fluoride, arsenic, lead and cadmium affect environmental and human health.

He will use the NIH grant to support his ongoing work to develop novel, non-invasive biomarkers to detect skeletal and enamel disorders linked to fluoride exposure, which affects the health of millions of people worldwide.

The Pathway to Independence Award – one of the most prestigious of its kind awarded by NIH – provides up to five years of support to enable outstanding postdoctoral researchers to complete advanced training in their fields and transition into a tenure-track, or equivalent, research position. During the initial two years, the grant can provide up to $100,000 a year to cover a recipient’s salary, benefits and research costs; during the last three years, it can provide up to $249,000 a year, contingent on the recipient’s success in securing an independent research position.

As part of his grant-supported research, Godebo, a native of Ethiopia, will develop lab-based elemental and isotopic biomarkers to detect both early-stage and advanced fluoride toxicity. He will conduct clinical radiographic examinations of bone disorders in persons affected by exposure to high levels of fluoride; assess the role environmental risk factors such as nutrition can play in compounding the disorder; and conduct extensive field collection of fingernail and urine samples – which can be used in the lab to measure the total body burden of fluoride and metals in affected populations.

Much of his work will be centered in the Great Rift Valley of Ethiopia, a hotspot for fluoride toxicity.

Godebo will work closely with Nicholas School faculty members Avner Vengosh, Joel Meyer and Erika Weinthal to conduct his research.

He will also work closely with Marc Jeuland of the Sanford School of Public Policy and the Duke Global Health Institute (DGHI); Elizabeth Turner of DGHI; and Julia Kravchenko and Harold Erickson of the Duke University Medical Center. Non-Duke collaborators will include Redda Tekle-Haimanot of Addis Ababa University and Gary Whitford of Georgia Regents University.