New Professor Makes Forbes Short List of Top Scientists Under 30

In her first year as an assistant professor at the University of California San Diego, Melissa Gymrek is already bringing honor to the institution. In its 2017 roster of top-notch young scientists, Forbes magazine included Gymrek among its top 30 researchers in the Science category under age 30. … Read the Full Story from the UC San Diego Newsroom

Researchers Identify New Drug Target for Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumors

In recent years, researchers have identified specific gene mutations linked to gastrointestinal stromal tumors (GIST), which primarily occur in the stomach or small intestine, with 5,000 to 6,000 new cases per year in the United States.

But 10 to 15 percent of adult GIST cases and most pediatric cases lack the documented tell-tale mutations, making identification and treatment more difficult. In their paper published online Dec. 14 in the Journal of Translational Medicine, researchers at University of California San Diego School of Medicine and Moores Cancer Center have identified new gene fusions and mutations associated with this subset of GIST patients. … Read the Full Story from the UC San Diego Newsroom


Dr. Razelle Kurzrock

Dr. Razelle Kurzrock

The study authors included a number of faculty researchers in the Division of Hematology-Oncology, Department of Medicine, at Moores Cancer Center, including Razelle Kurzrock, MD, Chief, Division of Hematology-Oncology; Murray Professor of Medicine; Senior Deputy Director, Clinical Science; and Director, Center for Personalized Cancer Therapy & Clinical Trials Office.

The other Hematology-Oncology investigators from UC San Diego included Drs. T. Fanta, Martina de Siena, Gregory Heestand, and Olivier Herismendy.

Active Genetics Goes Global

Tata Trusts & University of California San Diego partner to establish Tata Institute for Active Genetics and Society (TIAGS) —

UC San Diego has received a $70 million commitment from the India-based philanthropic Tata Trusts, which includes the Sir Dorabji Tata Trust, the Sir Ratan Tata Trust and the Tata Education and Development Trust, to establish the Tata Institute for Active Genetics and Society (TIAGS), a collaborative partnership between the university and research operations in India. UC San Diego, which will be home to the lead unit of the institute (TIAGS-UC San Diego), will receive $35 million in funding, while the remainder of the committed funds is anticipated to support a complementary research enterprise in India (TIAGS-India). … Read the Full Story from the UC San Diego Newsroom


Anita Raj, PhD

Anita Raj, PhD

Anita Raj, PhD, Professor of Medicine in the Division of Global Public Health, is one of the UC San Diego researchers who will contribute to the TIAGS.

2016 Update: A Lasting Solution for Healthcare in Mozambique

Mozambique highlighted on a map of Africa There is a critical shortage of practicing doctors and medical educators in Mozambique, where the life expectancy is less than 42 years and the rate of HIV infection in adults is 16%. UC San Diego is teaming with the nation’s flagship medical school to create a long-term solution.

Mozambique’s Universidade Eduardo Mondlane (UEM) and UCSD have won a five-year, $12.5-million award from the U.S. Medical Education Partnership Initiative (MEPI). The project will strengthen the nation’s medical education system by building infrastructure in several ways.


“We hope this will be a demonstration project for the rest of Africa.”
— Dr. Robert Schooley


Dr. Emilia Virginia Noormahomed, a co-investigator on the UCSD-UEM MEPI project.UEM’s principal investigator is Emilia Virginia Noormahomed, MD, PhD, a former dean of the UEM School of Medicine. Dr. Noormahomed (pictured at left) is now Assistant Professor of Parasitology at UEM and Assistant Professor of Medicine at UC San Diego.

Sam Patel, MD, Professor of Medicine at UEM and UC San Diego, is a co-investigator. In the photo below, he is pictured on the right.

View photo captions and credits

Dr. Bill Detmer, at left, demonstrates iPad mobile digital device preloaded with medical programs for doctors’ use in the hospital. Dr. Manuel Joaquim Tomás is at center and Dr. Sam Patel at right. Sam Patel, M.D., co-investigator on the MEPI project, is Professor of Medicine at UEM and UCSD. Bill Detmer, M.D., M.Sc., a MEPI project consultant, is Assistant Adjunct Professor of Clinical Informatics at the University of Virginia and President and Chief Executive Officer of Unbound Medicine.

MEPI is a joint initiative of the National Institutes of Health and the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). Under the MEPI program, UEM receives the bulk of the funding and uses it to build capacity in medical training, research, and technology.

A smaller amount of funding comes directly to UC San Diego, supporting time and travel for the partners and mentors who will help UEM meet its goals.

M. Wilson Tilghman, M.D., UCSD’s on-site faculty member in Mozambique, consults with a UEM internal medicine resident at a patient’s bedside. Instituting the use of wirelessly-accessed medical reference material in the hospital is one of the UCSD-UEM project goals.“This is an experiment in medical education for UEM and for the U.S. government,” said Robert “Chip” Schooley, MD, who is coordinating the UC San Diego side of the project. “It puts the funding into the hands of the African universities and allows them to invest it in ways that are beneficial to them.”

Dr. Schooley is Professor and Academic Affairs Vice Chair in the Department of Medicine and Chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases.

“I’m hopeful this will become a model for other kinds of aid,” he said.

Dr. Schooley and colleague Constance Benson, MD, have long experience in partnering with Mozambique and other African nations, and they have collaborated with Dr. Noormahomed in research projects for several years. Dr. Benson is Professor of Medicine, Director of the UC San Diego Antiviral Research Center, and Director of the Fellowship Program in Infectious Diseases.

The UEM-UCSD MEPI project expands some of the educational efforts that have been going on since July 2009 in the Internal Medicine Residency Program’s Global Medicine elective.

UC San Diego’s visiting faculty and residents have helped UEM adopt academic medical practices such as morning report and teaching conferences that strengthen the educational program.

MEPI biomedical informatics team members at October conference at UEM in Maputo.

MEPI biomedical informatics team members at October conference at UEM in Maputo.

The MEPI partnership relies heavily on biomedical informatics to accomplish its goals. This component of the program is led by Lucila Ohno-Machado, MD, PhD, Professor of Medicine and Chief of UC San Diego’s Division of Biomedical Informatics. The division will provide expertise for the partnership’s information technology projects.

Dr. Kathy Promer, a 2013 graduate of the UC San Diego Internal Medicine Program, is the current infectious diseases fellow at UC San Diego on rotation at UEM’s Maputo Central Hospital. In the photo below, she is standing, second from the right.

Dr. Kathy Promer (standing, second from the right), 2013 Graduate of the UCSD Internal Medicine Program and current infectious diseases fellow at UCSD on rotation at UEM’s Maputo Central Hospital.

Smartphones and iPad mobile digital devices have been deployed on the wards at Maputo Central Hospital, UEM’s primary teaching hospital and the only tertiary care center in Mozambique. With these devices, the Mozambican doctors are able for the first time to consult online medical literature at a patient’s bedside. Soon they will have immediate access to data generated by the hospital’s clinical laboratories.

“These efforts really have changed the character of the residency program at Maputo Central Hospital,” said Dr. Schooley.

Through training and partnership with UC San Diego, UEM will also increase its capacity to do operational, epidemiological, translational and clinical research. Another program goal calls for UEM to set up a biomedical informatics infrastructure and connect with SEACOM, the new fiber optic broadband internet service in South and East Africa.

Students in UEM medical school class.UEM will also take steps to enhance its support of two new medical schools recently established by the Mozambican government in Nampula and Tete. These two new medical schools were launched in the past 3 years to address the profound shortage of physicians in the country.

Another key UC San Diego figure in the project is Stephen Bickler, MD, who will work to improve the nation’s surgical capacity in rural areas via a linked MEPI project, “UEM-UCSD Surgery Partnership.” Dr. Bickler is Associate Professor of Surgery and Pediatrics.

A number of other UC San Diego faculty members will contribute to the MEPI effort as well.

Medical school class   UCSD internal medicine resident Dr. Bethany Karl

Above left, a medical school class at Universidade Eduardo Mondlane. Right, Dr. Bethany Karl on rotation at UEM’s Maputo Central Hospital. Dr. Karl graduated from the UC San Diego Internal Medicine Program in 2010 and is currently a nephrology attending. Photo courtesy of Robert T. Schooley, MD

Project leaders expect to double the number of graduating doctors in Mozambique in the next 10 years. They also hope to inspire more doctors to devote their careers to medical education.

With a greater number of highly-trained doctors and a better infrastructure to support them, Mozambique will increase its capacity to deliver health care to its citizens and to fill the faculties of two new medical schools in Nampula and Tete.

The doctors training today in Mozambique will be the specialists, medical school faculty members, and government Ministry of Health policymakers of the future.

“We hope this will be a demonstration project for the rest of Africa,” Dr. Schooley said.

Read the UC San Diego News press release about our MEPI project.

Read about the project in “The Great Beyond,” Nature magazine’s blog
for breaking news in the sciences.


Photo Captions and Credits:

Dr. Emilia Virginia Noormahomed, co-principal investigator on the UCSD-UEM MEPI project.Dr. Emilia Virginia Noormahomed, co-principal investigator on the UC San Diego-UEM MEPI project. Photo courtesy of William M. Detmer, MD, MSc.

Drs. Detmer, Tomás, and PatelDr. Bill Detmer, left, demonstrates iPad mobile digital device preloaded with medical programs for doctors’ use in the hospital. Dr. Manuel Joaquim Tomás is at center and Dr. Sam Patel at right. Sam Patel, MD, co-investigator on the MEPI project, is Professor of Medicine at UEM and UC San Diego. William M. Detmer, MD, MSc, a MEPI project consultant, is Assistant Adjunct Professor of Clinical Informatics at the University of Virginia and President and Chief Executive Officer of Unbound Medicine. Photo courtesy of Dr. Detmer.

Dr. Tilghman and Mozambican residentM. Wilson Tilghman, MD, UC San Diego’s on-site faculty member in Mozambique, consults with a UEM internal medicine resident at a patient’s bedside. Instituting the use of wirelessly-accessed medical reference material in the hospital is one of the UC San Diego-UEM project goals. Photo courtesy of Robert T. Schooley, MD.

MEPI biomedical informatics team members at October conference at UEM in Maputo. MEPI biomedical informatics team members at October conference at UEM in Maputo. From left: Lucila Ohno-Machado, MD, PhD; Eli Aronoff-Spencer, MD, senior postdoctoral fellow in infectious diseases at UC San Diego; Eng. David Bila, Network Director for the Informatics Center at UEM; Heimar de Fátima Marin, RN, PhD, Professor of Health Informatics at Universidade Federal de São Paulo; and Eng. Francisco Mabila, Director of the Informatics Center at UEM. Photo courtesy of William M. Detmer, MD, MSc.

Dr. Kathy Promer (standing, second from the right), is a 2013 graduate of the UC San Diego Internal Medicine Program and is the current infectious diseases fellow at UC San Diego on rotation at UEM’s Maputo Central Hospital.

Students in a medical school class at UEM.Students in a medical school class at UEM. Photo courtesy of William M. Detmer, MD, MSc.

A medical school class at UEM.A medical school class at UEM. Photo courtesy of William M. Detmer, MD, MSc.

UCSD internal medicine resident Dr. Bethany Karl on rotation at UEM’s Maputo Central Hospital.UC San Diego internal medicine resident Dr. Bethany Karl on rotation at UEM’s Maputo Central Hospital. Photo courtesy of Robert T. Schooley, MD.

Trademark Credit Notices:

iPad is a trademark of Apple Inc., registered in the U.S. and other countries.

Researchers ID Cancer Gene-Drug Combinations Ripe for Precision Medicine

Yeast, human cells and bioinformatics help develop one-two punch approach to personalized cancer therapy —

In an effort to expand the number of cancer gene mutations that can be specifically targeted with personalized therapies, researchers at University of California San Diego School of Medicine and Moores Cancer Center looked for combinations of mutated genes and drugs that together kill cancer cells. Such combinations are expected to kill cancer cells, which have mutations, but not healthy cells, which do not. The study, published July 21 in Molecular Cell, uncovered 172 new combinations that could form the basis for future cancer therapies.

“Oncologists here at Moores Cancer Center at UC San Diego Health and elsewhere can often personalize cancer therapy based on an individual patient’s unique cancer mutations,” said senior author Trey Ideker, PhD, … Read the Full Story by Heather Buschman from the UC San Diego Newsroom


Trey Ideker, PhD

Trey Ideker, PhD

Senior author of the study report in Molecular Cell is Trey Ideker, PhD, Professor of Medicine in the Division of Medical Genetics and Professor of Bioengineering at UC San Diego.

Gene Mutation “Hotspots” Linked to Better Breast Cancer Outcomes

Genetic phenomenon associated with low tumor invasiveness and longer patient survival could inform prognosis and help identify patients who would best respond to immunotherapy and other treatments —

Kataegis is a recently discovered phenomenon in which multiple mutations cluster in a few hotspots in a genome. The anomaly was previously found in some cancers, but it has been unclear what role kataegis plays in tumor development and patient outcomes. Using a database of human tumor genomic data, researchers at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine and Moores Cancer Center have discovered that kataegis is actually a positive marker in breast cancer — patients with these mutation hotspots have less invasive tumors and better prognoses. … Read the Full Story from the UC San Diego News Center


Dr. Jill Mesirov

Dr. Jill Mesirov

The study coauthors included Department of Medicine faculty researchers Pablo Tamayo, PhD, and Jill P. Mesirov, PhD. Both are Professors of Medicine in the Division of Genetics.

Read the Full Text (UC San Diego Only)

Personalized Medicine Leads to Better Outcomes for Patients with Cancer

In a meta-analysis of hundreds of clinical trials involving thousands of patients, researchers at University of California San Diego School of Medicine report that therapeutic approaches using precision medicine, which emphasizes the use of individual genetics to refine cancer treatment, showed improved response and longer periods of disease remission, even in phase I trials.

The findings are published in the June 6, 2016 issue of JAMA Oncology. … Read the Full Story from the UC San Diego Newsroom


Dr. Razelle Kurzrock

Dr. Razelle Kurzrock

The senior author of the report in JAMA Oncology is Razelle Kurzrock, MD, Director of the Center for Personalized Cancer Therapy and Clinical Trials Office at Moores Cancer Center.

Dr. Kurzrock is Chief of the Division of Hematology-Oncology in the Department of Medicine.

HIV Infection Prematurely Ages People by an Average of Five Years

Epigenetic changes also associated with 19 percent increased risk of mortality —

Thanks to combination antiretroviral therapies, many people with HIV can expect to live decades after being infected. Yet doctors have observed these patients often show signs of premature aging. Researchers at University of California San Diego School of Medicine and the University of Nebraska Medical Center have applied a highly accurate biomarker to measure just how much HIV infection ages people at the cellular level — an average of almost five years.

The study is published April 21 in Molecular Cell. … Read the Full Story from the UC San Diego Newsroom


Trey Ideker, PhD

Trey Ideker, PhD

Trey Ideker, PhD, Professor of Medicine and Professor of Bioengineering, is co-corresponding author of the study report in Molecular Cell (article access for UC San Diego only).

Other Department of Medicine authors include Andrew M. Gross, Philipp A. Jaeger, Jason F. Kreisberg and Katherine Licon.

New Computer Program Can Help Uncover Hidden Genomic Alterations that Drive Cancers

Tested on large tumor genomics database, REVEALER method allows researchers to connect genomics to cell function —

Cancer is rarely the result of a single mutation in a single gene. Rather, tumors arise from the complex interplay between any number of mutually exclusive abnormal changes in the genome, the combinations of which can be unique to each individual patient. To better characterize the functional context of genomic variations in cancer, researchers at University of California San Diego School of Medicine and the Broad Institute developed a new computer algorithm they call REVEALER. … Read the Full Story from the UC San Diego Newsroom


Dr. Jill Mesirov

Dr. Jill Mesirov

Co-senior authors on the REVEALER study report are Jill P. Mesirov, PhD, and Pablo Tamayo, PhD. Dr. Mesirov is Professor of Medicine in the Division of Medical Genetics and Associate Vice Chancellor for Computational Health Sciences at UC San Diego School of Medicine.

Dr. Tamayo is Professor of Medicine in the Division of Medical Genetics and Co-Director of the UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center Genomics and Computational Biology Shared Resource.

Remote Italian Village Could Harbor Secrets of Healthy Aging

Researchers will examine 300 Italian residents, all over 100 years old —

The average life expectancy in the United States is approximately 78 years old. Americans live longer, with better diets and improved health care, than ever before, but only 0.02 percent will hit the century mark.

To understand how people can live longer throughout the world, researchers at University of California, San Diego School of Medicine have teamed up with colleagues at University of Rome La Sapienza to study a group of 300 citizens, all over 100 years old, living in a remote Italian village nestled between the ocean and mountains on the country’s coast.

“We are the first group of researchers to be given permission to study this population in Acciaroli, Italy,” said Alan Maisel, MD … Read the Full Story from the UC San Diego Newsroom