Rutgers is creating a new Institute for Infectious and Inflammatory Diseases, which will pursue new approaches to detect, treat and prevent a variety of illnesses. Senior Associate Dean for Research at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School William Gause is leading the effort. He sat down with NJ Today Senior Correspondent Desirée Taylor to discuss the new endeavor.
“This institute will really focus on the crossroads of inflammation and infectious disease. An increasing amount of research is now suggesting that inflammation is involved in a variety of diseases, including the autoimmune diseases such as type 1 diabetes and inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn’s disease and all sorts of colitis,” Gause explained. “But more recently, inflammation has been found to be an important role in certain kinds of disorders as well, such as obesity and type 2 diabetes and also cardiovascular disease. And we’re gonna really study the common causes of inflammatory responses that might be contributing to these different kinds of diseases.”
Gause said it appears that in many of the diseases, the immune response has gone awry. That can cause tissue damage, damage to organs and damage to cell populations. “This appears to be increasing in industrialized countries right now. And what we want to try to do is understand why that might be occurring and also see if we can harness regulatory components of the immune response that might be able to regulate these harmful responses,” he explained.
According to Gause, the college merger has helped bring researchers together from throughout New Jersey and Rutgers. “We have a lot of research excellence in this area up in Newark right now. What we’re really hoping to do is bring these individuals together into one place so they can be near each other and really focus on a common basis for these inflammatory disorders,” he said.
Graduate students, both those going for master’s degrees and PhDs, will be working in laboratories and providing important input for research projects, Gause said.
The goal of the program, according to Gause, is to find new therapies to help individuals with the medical conditions. “The hope is to really move discoveries quickly from the laboratory to the bedside,” he said.
Funding is an issue for any research institute. Gause said the college merger will benefit in that area as well. “We already have a terrific group of researchers who are NIH [National Institutes of Health] funded and we have a significant amount of NIH funding within this institute right now. But coming together with Rutgers, I think it really gives us a catalyst to help build this even further,” he said. “What we’re gonna be doing over the next few years is recruiting additional faculty and coming together in collaborative, multi-investigative grants where teams of people will really be working on just different aspects of inflammatory disease. And I think this is all really catalyzed by this merger with Rutgers.”
Gause said plans are in the works to partner with other research institutions as well, including New York schools Cornell and Columbia.
Millions of Americans are affected by autoimmune diseases and Gause hopes to be able to offer them some relief through the research the new institute will perform.
“These are diseases like type 1 diabetes where the beta eyelet cells are destroyed by the immune system. And also inflammatory bowel diseases which really are a result of an overactive immune system in the intestines that can lead to diseases like Crohn’s disease,” he said. “But even more than that, even more than the autoimmune diseases, we now have these additional conditions such as obesity or type 2 diabetes or cardiovascular disease where inflammation seems to play an important role as well. And all of that we’re gonna be working on.”