This is a request for first renewal of support for the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine's (UPSOM) training program in Autoimmunity and Immunopathology (AI/IP). AI/IP is a very important basic and applied research area that is leading the way in bringing the insights of basic immunology to the patient in the form of biological and mechanism-based therapies. Our AI/IP training program is thus very clearly delineated from other (successful) training programs at UPSOM in immunology-related areas, such as in infectious disease or transplantation. We have had success in the first cycle: while faithfully and robustly implementing our mentoring plan we have trained or are training 10 pre-doctoral students with 9 different mentors. Four pre-doctoral students have completed their PhD degree, and these students have published an average of 4.75 papers. Three of the 4 graduates of the program are currently pursuing postdoctoral research, and the fourth has taken a position in industry. We have also trained or are training 11 post-doctoral fellows with 11 different mentors, including 8 PhDs, 2 MDs and 1 MD/PhD. Two of our PhD trainees are URM. One of our PhDs was awarded an individual NIH F32 grant and a postdoctoral fellowship from the Arthritis Foundation. Another PhD obtained a postdoctoral fellowship from the JDRF, and one of our URM PhDs was funded by the UNCF/Merck Science Initiative. We now propose to build meaningfully on what is now a proven training program. We highlight two major enhancements: 1) UPSOM is making an unprecedented new investment in immunology, with emphasis on AI/IP. This has improved the training environment and most notably has resulted in the addition of two leading AI researchers, Drs. Vignali and Shlomchik. 2) After initial success in training clinical fellows for research in their post-clinical fellowship years in rheumatology, we have expanded this innovative program to asthma, IBD, GVHD and psoriasis. We thus aim to provide the complete spectrum of training in AI/IP under the umbrella of a single program and single community of researchers, mentors and trainees. This will be unique, and will serve to optimize the broad experience of the trainees and in turn our contributions in bringing knowledge and therapy from bench to bedside. The training program exploits particular strengths at UPSOM, including an outstanding translational research base and culture and an excellent free-standing department of immunology that underpins strong basic research training opportunities. UPSOM cares deeply about training and has implemented a series of very effective programs to ensure outstanding training at both the student and postdoc levels. Thus, our program flourishes within a very supportive and rich environment. The pool of applicants is also out- standing, given our successful IBGP and MSTP program, the extremely sought-after clinical fellowships, and the attractiveness of our mentor pool for fellows applying directly. We are excited and eager to execute our training plan for the upcoming cycle, and to capitalize on the significant improvements that we have made and have planned both for training opportunities as well as in terms of faculty.
Autoimmunity and Immunopathology are very important basic and applied research areas that are leading the way in bringing the insights of basic immunology to the patient in the form of biological and mechanism-based therapies. Our AI/IP training program seeks to train the spectrum of basic to applied and predoctoral to postdoctoral clinical fellow young scientists to carry out the next generation of cutting edge research. The dynamic environment of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine is ideally suited to do so.
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