A New Vision for Immunology Research at Duke Medical School

Chair Raphael Valdivia, PhD, is overseeing the restructuring of the Department of Immunology at Duke University School of Medicine to reflect the growing importance of immunity and inflammation in all aspects of human health.

The name change to the Department of Integrative Immunobiology, approved by the university in April, captures the changing landscape of immunological research, creating immunotherapeutic treatments that trigger the immune system to fight cancer, leading to major leading to the emergence of inflammation as a factor. In various infectious diseases, including cardiovascular disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, obesity, diabetes, and HIV/AIDS.

“Fundamentally, most diseases are the result of inflammation or dysregulation of the immune system,” explained Valdivia. shaped by.”

A former Associate Dean of Basic Sciences and Professor of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology, he led the Department of Basic Sciences at Duke University, which has its roots in the 1960s before it was formally established as a department in 1992. I’m here. Applied Immunology.

Work on transforming the department began in July 2022, with an advisory group and faculty working together on how we want to shape immunology for the future.

Since then, three main themes of future research goals have emerged for the new division of integrative immunobiology.

  • It extends to the translational aspects of research, including drug discovery, biologic and cell therapy production, and vaccines.

In announcing the name change, Dean of the School of Medicine Mary Crotman, M.D., Ph.D. He said it would form stronger ties with clinical departments.

It will also integrate with clinical institutions such as the Duke Human Vaccine Institute, Surgical Sciences, and the Duke Cancer Institute, evolving the department’s focus on research and training, and transforming knowledge into the treatment and prevention of disease.

change culture

Much of the reconstruction depends on cultural change. “We are rethinking how we approach research, how we approach training, and what our role in society as scientists is,” he said.

The division has traditionally relied on model systems to understand the immune system, but applying this knowledge to the human population requires integration with clinical partners.

Physicians “can see if the immune system is a component or cause of disease and say, ‘We really should study this,'” Valdivia said.

Integration requires a cultural change to see applied science, such as the generation of new cell therapies for the treatment of cancer and new vaccines, as valuable as the discovery of the fundamental principles of immunity.

“In order for future basic scientists to be successful and competitive, their research must be increasingly grounded in human disease,” explained Valdivia. “The next generation of basic scientists should be comfortable making basic discoveries and translating them into products and treatments.”

One of the first recruits in the newly appointed department was Jose Conejo-Garcia, MD, PhD, a tumor immunologist who is pioneering the use of antibody and cell therapies for the treatment of epithelial cancers. When the search for new faculty begins his October, the department will look for basic scientists who can address clinically important problems.

Extended research coincides with revised training requirements. Graduate students entering immunology programs hope to apply their research to the treatment of disease and hope that their results will reach the clinic sooner. Some scientists leave the relatively slow-paced academia and move into industry after earning their Ph.D.

“We need to adjust how our trainees are taught, equipping them with skills in addition to reasoning to keep them up to date with the latest technology and adapt as new technologies emerge,” says Valdivia. said Mr.

Already strong in infectious diseases, vaccine research, lymphocyte biology, neuroinflammation and applied immunology, the division is poised for further growth.

“Our mission is to understand the immune system, but we have a purpose,” said Valdivia, who is also a leader committed to equity, diversity, and inclusion in biomedical science. “We want to integrate clinical observations with the underlying cellular and molecular mechanisms of immunity. I am working on growing it.”

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