May 3, 2018 – Novel Methods for Studying Autoimmunity and Developing Personalized Treatments

Autoimmune and inflammatory disease affect as many as 10% of all Americans. Novel methods are needed to accurately (i.) discover new molecular targets for biomarkers and drug discovery, using “Big Data” and computational science methods; and (ii.) develop individualized preventions and treatments, based on results from mechanistic assays. The presenter will describe an entirely new approach for discovering potential druggable targets and pathways that starts with public data. He will also describe mechanistic assay development efforts, including use of protein and peptide arrays and development of a new single cell method called “EpiTOF”. Finally, he will describe efforts to develop antigen-specific tolerizing therapy for type I diabetes (T1D). He will conclude by discussing the provocative topic of Physician Scientists, and why they are essential to the US biomedical research effort.

About the Speaker:

Dr. PJ Utz directs a highly-successful lab of 10-12 scientists at Stanford University School of Medicine. The lab focuses on the normal immune system and how it differs from the immune system of patients with immunodeficiency disorders, infections, and autoimmune diseases. Autoimmune diseases being studied include systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), rheumatoid arthritis (RA), systemic sclerosis (scleroderma), myositis, primary biliary cirrhosis (PBC), Sjögren’s disease, insulin dependent diabetes (type I diabetes or IDDM), multiple sclerosis (MS), inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), and mixed connective tissue disease (MCTD). In addition to trying to better understand the pathogenic mechanisms involved in autoimmune and inflammatory diseases, the lab is interested in developing bench-to-bedside technologies, including diagnostics and therapeutics, for human immune diseases. Finally, the Utz Lab is also active in vaccine biology, both for inducing protective immunity to pathogens and for turning off immune responses in autoimmune diseases.


PJ is the Director of Stanford’s Autoimmunity Center of Excellence (ACE) and has extensive expertise in coordinating 8 different program project grants over the last 12 years, including Francis Collins’ $41M Accelerating Medicines Partnership in RA/SLE initiative. He founded and directs the Stanford Institutes of Medicine Research (SIMR) Program for high school students, which has hosted ~800 students in labs over 18 years. PJ is the Director of the Stanford MSTP and recently accepted a role as Associate Dean. He will be responsible for oversite of all medical student research and scholarship, with a focus on MD-only trainees and the creation of an MD Masters program in Biomedical Research.

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