Agents of change.
The stories in this issue of Brown Medicine illustrate clearly why we are working so hard to dramatically expand a translational science effort at Brown. Despite decades of study, people are suffering from diseases for which we have no reliable treatments, let alone cures.
Our new chair of the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, Jonathan “Jake” Kurtis, a triple alumnus and long-time faculty member, has spent years working on a potential malaria vaccine. His laboratory identified antibodies in a small population of children in Africa who were resistant to malaria despite frequent bites from infected mosquitoes. From these findings his team identified the antigens that the antibodies recognized and used this knowledge to develop a novel vaccine that could prevent people from dying from the illness. I think you’ll find Jake’s path to becoming a physician-scientist fascinating, and a very “Brown” story. He isn’t driven by the glory of making a discovery but by alleviating suffering and death in the most impoverished nations.
Perhaps one of the most vexing problems we face in my field of pulmonology and critical care medicine is sepsis. Very little is known about its etiology and even less about how best to combat it. Although it is the leading killer of hospitalized patients, we are impressively lacking in our understanding of its pathogenesis and its optimal treatment. Here at Brown we have one of the world’s leading experts on sepsis, Mitchell Levy. In this article, you’ll meet Mitch and other clinicians and researchers who are conducting research and figuring out how to best treat this critical disorder.
In addition to malaria and sepsis, there are many other disorders that lack effective therapies. They are complex problems that fall in the category of “unmet medical needs.” We need to attack them with teams that include basic science researchers, master clinicians, computational biologists, physician-scientists, medicinal chemists, policy analysts, and other investigators if we are going to make needed progress. We’re building those types of teams in the Brown Institute for Translational Science, where we are united in our mission to generate new knowledge and develop new therapies, diagnostics, and cures for the people who need them most.
Jack A. Elias, MD
Senior Vice President for Health Affairs
Dean of Medicine and Biological Sciences