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NIH/NIDDK Gastroenterology Training Program

NIH Training Grant

NIH/NIDDK T32 DK007202

The Division's NIH Training Grant was initially funded in 1976. The Division has trained numerous local gastroenterologists in San Diego as well as developed several academicians at University-based medical schools, including some with leadership and administrative positions.


Program Director

​​​Lars Eckmann, MD
Lars Eckmann, MD

Contact Information

Roslyn Lara
GI Program Coordinator
858-657-5022 (fax)

About the Program

The aim of the research training program is to develop independent investigators who will devote their career to research on fundamental aspects of digestive diseases and train individuals from the adult and pediatric GI programs.

The Training Grant supports, per year:

  • 4 Postdoctoral Trainees (MD or PhD) (3 Adult GI and 1 Pediatric GI)
  • 2 Predoctoral Trainees that will lead to a PhD degree

The grant funds 2 years of a Gastroenterology Research Fellowship training slot. A training slot is comprised of 2 research years and 1 clinical year.

Postdoctoral training involves 2 years of supervised, self-directed laboratory research aimed at developing the trainee's ability to formulate meaningful scientific questions and hypotheses, design and conduct experiments to test hypothesis, and present results in oral and written form. Laboratory research is performed in the laboratory of faculty sponsors of the Training Grant and supplemented, as appropriate, by didactic course work.

The predoctoral program for PhD candidates involve research training within the laboratory of a faculty sponsor under the auspice of the Biomedical Science Graduate Program.

The training faculty includes basic scientists at UCSD as well as neighboring research institutes where there is close collaboration. The program is designed for graduate students and MD or PhD candidates who are committed to an academic career in digestive sciences. Special efforts are made to attract minority candidates. At completion, postdoctoral trainees are competitive for entry level independent funding and predoctoral trainees are highly competitive for outstanding postdoctoral positions.

Research performance sites include UCSD, VA San Diego Healthcare System, La Jolla Institute, Burnham Institute, and The Salk Institute. A list of the Training Grant faculty sponsors are listed below with a brief description of their research interests.

Training Grant Faculty Sponsors

Pradipta Ghosh, MD – UCSD
Program Director

Dr. Pradipta Ghosh's laboratory studies the cell biology of signal transduction with a special emphasis on identification and characterization of novel modulators of heterotrimeric Over the years, her group has systematically pursued in depth the mechanism and biological implications of an intracellular heterotrimeric G protein system, and revealed along the way how G protein signaling via GEMs is fundamentally distinct from the conventional G protein signaling from the cell surface by G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs). She currently serves as primary mentors for 2 of our pre-doctoral trainees (Swanson and Kalogriopoulos) and 1 postdoc trainee (Mittal). She is also the Associate Program Director.

Seema Aceves, MD – UCSD

Dr. Aceves' research interests are in pediatric eosinophilic esophagitis (EoE) with a particular focus on translational research that investigates the impact and mechanisms of tissue remodeling in pediatric EoE. Her lab uses primary human esophageal cells and novel ex vivo as model systems to understand the functional changes of epithelial, fibroblast, and smooth muscle cells in EoE. Further, her lab studies the relationship of genetic polymorphisms to therapeutic response and disease progression in EoE. Dr. Aceves has made a number of seminal contributions to the field of EoE including novel therapeutic strategies, the first delineation of long-term remodeling in children, and the role of TGFβ1 and Phospholamban [PLB] in EoE pathogenesis, and the ability of rigid matrix to alter esophageal structural cell function.

Kim E. Barrett, PhD – UCSD

Dr. Kim E. Barrett's interests involve epithelial transport and barrier function in human health and disease and its inter- and intracellular regulation. The laboratory has a primary focus on chloride secretory mechanisms in the gastrointestinal tract and the pathogenic mechanisms in diseases of epithelial dysfunction. Regulatory mechanisms for many electrolyte transport processes converge on the EGF receptor with transactivation of this tyrosine kinase recruiting in MAP kinase-dependent signaling. Dr. Barrett's work uses a broad range of techniques from molecular approaches and studies in cell lines to work using animals or human tissue specimens. All projects in the laboratory are available for trainee participation.

Lars Bode, MD – UCSD

Dr. Bode's lab is dedicated to research on Human Milk Oligosaccharides (HMO). His objective is to elucidate how HMO are synthesized in the mother's mammary gland and how they benefit the breast-fed infant and modulate their microbiota. This area of research is highly relevant to nutrition in the neonatal period and how it impacts the development of the local homeostasis and its impact on health throughout life. He has trained in glycan chromatography and analysis, glycan-gene array analysis, cell manipulation with small molecule probes and siRNA, confocal and electron microscopy, and mouse genetics. Dr. Bode is a member of the Glycobiology Research and Training Center.

Kerri Boutelle, MD – UCSD

Dr. Kerri Boutelle has degrees in Food Science and Nutrition and in Clinical Psychology with strong ties with Psychiatry and Public Health. She serves as faculty in the SDSU/UCSD Joint Doctoral Program in Clinical Psychology and as clinical faculty in the UCSD Clinical Psychology APA approved Internship. She has over 20 yrs of experience conducting clinical trials and epidemiological studies with children, adolescents and adults who are overweight and obese and who have eating disorders. The goals of her research lab are 1) To work toward optimizing currently available approaches for treatment of obesity and overeating, and to create translatable versions of these treatments for the clinic and other populations, and 2) To identify highly novel targets for the treatment of people who are obese or who overeat, based on findings from basic behavioral sciences and on neuroscience, to work toward developing the next generation of treatment models.

David Brenner, MD – UCSD

Dr. David Brenner's laboratory investigates the pathogenesis of liver inflammation and fibrosis. He employs a spectrum of cell biologic and physiologic models. For example, primary cultures of hepatic stellate cells are used to examine the regulation of collagen expression. Angiotensin II was identified as a fibrogenic agonist that activates NADPH oxidase to produce reactive oxygen species in the stellate cell. Isolated Kupffer cells are used to demonstrate their primary role in hepatic production of TGF -1, the most potent fibrogenic cytokine in the liver. Other studies characterize chemokines and their receptors that recruit macrophages to the injured liver and the role of hepatocyte apoptosis in inducing liver inflammation and fibrosis.

John Chang, MD – UCSD

Dr. John Chang's laboratory investigates the molecular basis of pathogenic adaptive immune responses in inflammatory bowel disease, with a focus on the role of polarity and asymmetric cell division in the differentiation of colitogenic CD4+ T cells. His studies have shown a novel role for an evolutionarily conserved mechanism of asymmetric cell division and the network of polarity proteins that regulates this process, in initiating the dysregulated immune response that leads to inflammatory bowel disease. Dr. Chang's trainees include several PhD candidate graduate students, a MS. candidate graduate student and several undergraduate students. For future trainees, Dr. Chang's laboratory offers rigorous training in basic immunology and undamental immunologic techniques (flow cytometry, animal models of inflammatory bowel disease, cell culture, molecular biology) necessary for basic investigation in inflammation and inflammatory bowel disease.

Edward Dennis, MD – UCSD

Dr. Edward Dennis' laboratory focuses on understanding the regulation of lipid second messengers and signal transduction processes and especially the role of various phospholipases in their generation. The laboratory utilizes organic synthetic approaches, enzyme kinetics, molecular biology, site-specific mutagenesis, cell and tissue culture and high-resolution NMR techniques, as well as traditional biochemical approaches in attacking phospholipase and membrane problems. Trainees will be involved in one or more of these projects, will be closely mentored and will learn organic synthetic approaches, enzyme kinetics, molecular biology aimed at site-specific mutagenesis, tissue culture, high-resolution and NMR techniques.

Pieter C. Dorrestein, PhD – UCSD

Dr. Pieter Dorrestein's lab develops new mass spectrometry based methods to link biological, including disease and health phenotypes to the underlying microbial chemistry and genotypes. His lab has developed tools that translate the chemical language between microbial cells or microbe host interactions. His laboratory is well equipped with 10 mass spectrometers, Advion nanospray sources, DESI and nanoDESI sources, 10 ULPC/HPLCs that are used in the studies to investigate capture cellular chatter (e.g. metabolic exchange) and to develop methods to characterize natural products (Specialized metabolites) in 2D, 3D and in some cases real-time. A Collaborative Mass Spectrometry Innovation Center has a focus on the analysis of all aspects of microbial metabolism. Areas of recent research directions are microbe-microbe, microbe-immune cells, microbe-host, microbial communities, drug metabolism and diseased vs. non-disease model organisms and the development of computational strategies for mass spectrometry based genome mining and to detect and structurally characterize specialized metabolites through crowd source annotation of molecular information.

Lars Eckmann, MD – UCSD

Dr. Lars Eckmann's research focuses on in the cellular and molecular pathogenesis of infections with enteric pathogens and the mechanisms underlying the regulation of intestinal inflammation. His studies employ animal models of intestinal infection and inflammation and apply molecular, microbiological and histological approaches to elucidate the key genes and cellular and molecular mechanisms that govern intestinal host defenses against enteric pathogens and regulate inflammatory responses in the gastrointestinal tract. Current studies define host defense mechanisms against the protozoan pathogen Giardia and the bacterial pathogens Escherichia coli and Salmonella.

Ariel Feldstein, MD – UCSD/Rady Children's Hospital

Dr. Ariel E. Feldstein's research program is focused on dissecting the biochemical pathways of cell death triggered by over-accumulation of fatty acids and other lipids in the liver and other organs. These pathways play an important role in disease processes such as obesity-associated liver disease (nonalcoholic steatohepatitis or NASH) and type 2 diabetes. His laboratory utilizes in vivo and in vitro experimental models on the basic mechanisms involved in steatosis and NASH development as well as an array of mass spectrometry based approaches (LC/ESI/MS/MS, proteomics) directed toward translational studies to identify mechanism-based disease biomarkers. Trainees in this lab are exposed to studies of hepatocyte-adipocyte crosstalk, their role in metabolic syndrome and NASH and identification of novel diagnostics for these conditions.

Richard L. Gallo, MD, PhD – UCSD

Dr. Richard L. Gallo's laboratory is interested in understanding the basic mechanisms of epithelial defense and repair. Currently, the major focus is in studying the function and regulation of antimicrobial peptides. Through the use of a variety of biochemical and molecular techniques they have found that the skin produces cationic peptides during the early response to injury. This work has shown the presence of these peptides is critical the host response to infection. Another interest of his group is the function of tissue glycosaminoglycans as immune signaling molecules and co-factors to aid in wound repair. Most recently his laboratory discovered that matrix glycosaminoglycans are potent activators of NF-κB in endothelial cells and can serve to initiate signals leading to cell-mediated immune defense. Dr Gallo's group has an active journal club and seminar series as part of its educational program.

Samir Gupta, MD – UCSD/VASDHC

Dr. Samir Gupta's research focuses on the prevention and screening of colorectal cancer and polyps. He has led three large-scale comparative effectiveness randomized trials of strategies to boost colorectal cancer screening rates among underserved populations such as the uninsured and racial/ethnic minorities, as well as numerous observational studies of the clinical and molecular epidemiology of digestive system cancers and neoplasia, including colorectal, hepatocellular, and pancreatic cancer. Further, Dr. Gupta is the local site PI for the VA Million Veteran Program and an active co-investigator within an NCI U54 Academic-Community Partnership (APACHE) grant to UCSD and San Diego State University, where he is a co-PI of a randomized trial of colon cancer screening strategies, and co-PI of the Partnership's community outreach Core.

Christopher K. Glass, MD, PhD – UCSD

Dr. Christopher K. Glass' laboratory investigates the mechanisms by which sequence-specific transcription factors regulate the development and function of macrophages. A major focus is on members of the nuclear receptor AP-1 and Ets families of transcription factors. Studies over the past few years have led to the identification of a large number of coactivator and corepressor complexes that interact with these factors in a ligand or signal-dependent manner and mediate their transcriptional effects. Dr. Glass is actively collaborating with Dr. Ghosh's group and co-mentoring Lee Swanson, a pre-doc supported by this T32.

Hal M. Hoffman, MD – UCSD

Dr. Hal M. Hoffman's laboratory focuses on the identification of genes for rare inherited disorders. His laboratory identified CIAS1, a gene that is responsible for three autosomal dominant inflammatory disorders. This discovery led to a novel effective treatment for these patients. Currently, his group is investigating the function of this gene in human monocytes and genetically modified mice. Further work is being conducted on the identification of the gene for a rare autosomal recessive diarrheal disease, congenital tufting enteropathy. The laboratory has found linkage of this disease gene to chromosome 2 and recently has identified a candidate gene with a novel mutation.

Jeannie Huang, MD – UCSD

Dr. Jeannie Huang's work has been to improve health outcomes in persons suffering from chronic disease. She has focused her research endeavors on how to creatively use emerging technologies to improve the reach of healthcare. She has collaborated on several highly innovative health research projects addressing pediatric pain, health outcomes, personal health behaviors that incorporate multiple sources of data and various data modalities particularly exploring technology-based data capture.

Paul Insel, MD – UCSD

Dr. Insel's laboratory is involved in studies of signal transduction in epithelial cell systems, in particular, by G protein coupled receptors (e.g. P2Y and prostanoid receptors). Work in the laboratory emphasizes MDCK cells, which possess both P2Y and prostanoid receptors as do biliary duct epithelial cells and various other gastrointestinal tract epithelial cells. Other work in the laboratory focuses on the ability of P2Y and adenosine receptors to regulate leukocyte function, especially as related to inflammatory stimuli. Trainees who wok in the Insel laboratory will investigate cellular and biochemical mechanisms involved in the regulation and activation of GTP binding proteins, adenylyl cyclase, phosphodiesterases, protein kinases, including stoichiometry of expression of components in signaling microdomains. Other work involves regulation of adenylyl cyclase isoforms, studies of mechanisms involved in "cross talk" for signal transduction systems (e.g. adenylyl cyclase via Ca2+, nitric oxide and protein kinase C) and by different classes of G protein coupled receptors. The laboratory uses molecular biological, cell biological, and biochemical techniques for its studies. Trainees will select a project that will entail exposure to multiple experimental approaches and methods. Trainees participate in all educational and intellectual activities of the laboratory, including weekly research conferences and a signal transduction journal club.

Michael Karin, PhD – UCSD

Dr. Michael Karin studies signaling and transcriptional pathways and their functions in inflammation and cancer. The laboratory has generated several mouse models, both general and tissue-specific in order to characterize the importance of the inflammatory cascade. His group investigates the signaling pathways leading from the TNF and IL-1 receptors to activate various MAP kinases, including JNKs and p38. Trainees are able to participate in studies on the function of these kinases in various inflammatory and immune responses, as well as in mucosal inflammation and epithelial and lamina propria immunobiology. He is currently collaborating with Dr. Boland, a recent T32-supported trainee, as well as with multiple GI faculties.

Tatiana Kisseleva, MD – UCSD

Dr. Tatiana Kisseleva is a physician-scientist who was trained as a liver surgeon in Russian University of Friendship (Moscow, Russia). She finished her graduate studies at Christian-Albrecht University in Germany. As a postdoctoral fellow at Columbia University, Dr. Kisseleva studied signal transduction and transgenic mouse technologies. She recently joined the UCSD faculty as an Assistant Professor of Surgery. The major interest of Dr. Kisseleva's studies is the characterization of the origin of fibrogenic myofibroblasts and identification of novel targets for anti-fibrotic therapy. She serves as a PI on multiple R01s from the NIDDK.

Robin Knight, PhD – UCSD

Dr. Knight's research focuses on the human microbiome. His laboratory has been a leader in studies of the human microbiome, including the first overall maps of the human microbiome across human body sites, software for interpreting and understanding the vast flood of DNA sequence data that comprises our understanding of the human microbiome, understanding how the human microbiome develops over the course of one's lifetime, and placing the human microbiome in context of other microbial communities in the environment. As his work has taken an increasingly medical focus, the opportunity to work closely with physician-scientists to help them understand microbiome experimental designs and datasets, and, in turn, to develop tools that make microbiome datasets more accessible both for research and for clinical decision support, is uniquely compelling.

Mitchell Kronenberg, PhD – LIAI

Dr. Mitchell Kronenberg studies the functions of T cells in intestinal inflammation and defense including models of inflammatory bowel disease. One project explores the T cell receptor (TCR) diversity of donor- derived T cells in the intestine of inflammation-prone SCID recipients by immunoscope (CDR3 length) analysis and sequencing of TCR beta chains. Trainees have the opportunity to work closely with Dr. Kronenberg in selecting and designing their project and an opportunity to learn state-of-the-art molecular and in vivo animal model approaches to study important questions relevant to mucosal inflammation. His Institute maintains an excellent seminar and journal club program that emphasizes graduate and postdoctoral training.

Rohit Loomba, MD – UCSD

Dr. Rohit Loomba's research focuses on all aspects of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease including aging, epidemiology, genetic and environmental predisposition, natural history and treatment of nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH). His research interests also include liver and aging epidemiology as well. He utilizes diverse epidemiologic and outcomes research methodologies to answer clinically relevant questions. Examples of the research conducted include patient-oriented clinical research based upon patients seen in the liver clinic, clinical trials, population-based cohort studies, twin studies and clinical decision making by utilizing meta- analytic approaches. Dr. Loomba is also conducting research on the epidemiology of viral hepatitis in relation with hepatocellular carcinoma.

Elena Martinez, MD – UCSD

Dr. Martinez is a Professor in the Department of Family and Preventive Medicine, is the Sam M. Walton Endowed Chair for Cancer Research and Co-leads the Reducing Cancer Disparities Program at the Moores Cancer Center. Dr. Martinez holds a PhD in Epidemiology and a Master's in Public Health. Dr. Martinez's research interests are focused in health disparity and disease prevention. In addition, she is a key member of the original investigative team that implemented a large Gates Foundation- funded consortium in six countries in Latin America focusing on Helicobacter pylori eradication and gastric cancer prevention. Nationally, she has established herself as a strong leader in the area of health disparities; evidence of this is her appointment as recent chair of the American Association for Cancer Research Minorities in Cancer Research Council. In addition, she is senior editor of the Cancer Disparities section for the Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers and Prevention journal.

Ravinder Mittal, MD – UCSD

Dr. Ravinder Mittal's laboratory focuses on motor and muscle functions in the esophagus and pelvic floor. Physiologic, pharmacological and clinical studies are being conducted to answer the questions related to pathophysiology of esophageal motor disorder and esophageal sensation. The laboratory employs pressure recordings, electrical signal recordings, ultrasound imaging, isolated muscle strip preparation and immunohistochemistry studies of the neurotransmitters of the GI tract in humans and animals to explore the physiology and pathophysiology of pelvic floor function in humans and experimental animal models. These studies are relevant for the understanding of the pathophysiology of fecal and urinary continence.

Hayat Mousa, MD – UCSD

Dr. Hayat Mousa's clinical and research activities focus on motility and functional gastrointestinal disorders. Earlier in her career, she received NIH and industrial grants to evaluate different therapeutic approaches to manage constipation and severe motility disorders. She has led the training program in motility at Nationwide Children's hospital and mentored several trainees and PhD as they launch their careers.

Lucila Ohno-Machado, MD – UCSD

Dr. Ohno-Machado is a Professor of Medicine and the founding Chief of the Department of Biomedical Informatics at UCSD. She is associate dean for informatics and technology and has experience leading multidisciplinary projects at the intersections of biomedicine and quantitative sciences. Her research group focuses on biomedical pattern recognition from large data sets, statistical learning, and privacy technology. Dr. Ohno-Machado is also director of the Biomedical Research Informatics for Global Health training program. Dr. Ohno-Machado has performed groundbreaking research and directed advanced training programs in the field of biomedical informatics. Her primary research interest is prognostic modeling, the development of statistical models to predict clinical outcomes.

Satchidananada Panda, PhD – Salk

Dr. Satchidananada Panda's research interests are in the circadian regulation of metabolism and physiology in various organs, including the liver and its implication in metabolic diseases. His laboratory uses animal models to dissect the interactions among the diet, temporal feeding pattern and genotypes in development of metabolic diseases. He recently served as primary research mentor for Dr. Amir Zarrinpar, whom we were fortunate to recruit as a tenure track faculty here at UCSD.

Manuella Raffatellu, MD – UCSD

Dr. Raffatellu is a newly recruited faculty here at UCSD within the Department of Pediatrics. The goal of Dr. Raffatellu's research program is to understand how mucosal immune responses control infection, and how mucosal pathogens evade or exploit them. Because mucosal immunity represents a double-edged sword: although beneficial for pathogen containment, it can sometimes favor pathogen colonization and growth, Dr. Raffatellu's group seeks to elucidate which responses constitute the mucosal barrier to dissemination as well as those that favor pathogen colonization. By understanding both aspects, they aim to develop novel therapeutic strategies to treat infections. Her program is currently funded by several R21 and R01 award mechanisms.

Eyal Raz, MD – UCSD

Dr. Eyal Raz's laboratory analyzes the interaction of innate immunity with microbial agents. In particular, he studies the role of microbial products in the activation and inhibition of mucosal inflammation. Recently, they have characterized the immune profile induced by TLR ligands, such as LPS, lipopeptides or bacterial DNA at mucosal sites and analyzed the impact of these ligands on experimental colitis. Ongoing projects explore the mechanisms behind these diverse effects and its relationship to health and disease states. Dr. Raz's results indicate that each of these ligands has a different profile and different impact on the outcome of experimental colitis.

Jesus Rivera-Nieves, MD – UCSD

Dr. Jesus Rivera-Nieves's work focuses on the pathogenesis of Crohn's disease. Leukocytes of the granulocytic, monocytic and lymphocytic lineages are active participants in the chronic inflammatory process. Their recruitment from the circulation is regulated by adhesion molecules and chemokine receptors interacting with their respective ligands expressed or presented by intestinal endothelia cells. These adhesive interactions represent attractive therapeutic targets for the modulation of the destructive chronic inflammatory process. Using novel murine models of Crohn's-like ileitis Dr. Rivera-Nieves has continued to explore potential molecules that may be targeted, within the leukocyte recruitment cascade.

William Sandborn, MD – UCSD

Dr. William J. Sandborn's research portfolio is a tour de force and offers exactly what one would desire in an ideal preceptor in clinical-translational research, i.e., the knowledge and know-how for conducting clinical trials by leading a team of physicians, scientists from pharmaceutical companies, research fellows, nurses, and study coordinators. His overall research interests are clinical trials and clinical pharmacology related to the inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD), including Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis and pouchitis. Given his extensive track record (614 publications; 155 clinical trials (of which 13 reported in NEJM, 9 in Lancet, 1 JAMA), he is uniquely suited to train fellows in all steps of clinical research, including formulation of testable hypothesis, drafting IRB submissions, submitting investigational new drug (IND) requests to the FDA, cohort design, recruitment of patients, determination of study end points, writing and reporting findings in high impact journals. Since his recruitment, he has single-handedly mentored a tier of investigators [fellows and junior faculties].

Bernd Schabl, MD – UCSD

Dr. Schnabl's lab is interested in the pathophysiology of chronic liver diseases. Trained as physician scientist, Dr. Schnabl is particularly interested in a system biology approach to better understand the interaction between the intestinal microbiome and the liver during chronic liver disease. Although the gut-liver axis was known for many years, his lab pioneered work on characterizing the intestinal microbiome associated with various liver diseases. Intestine specific interventions employ new and powerful techniques for microbiomics including metagenomics and metabolomics. These efforts will lead to a proof of concept that precision microbiome approaches can prevent chronic liver disease.

Aleem Siddiqui, MD – UCSD

Dr. Siddiqui's research addresses the underlying mechanism(s) of Hepatitis C virus (HCV)-altered lipid homeostasis. His lab’s current research efforts are on the HCV-induced effects on lipid metabolism, including HCV-induced impairment of mitochondrial β-oxidation. Recent work suggests that both hepatitis B virus (HBV) and HCV alter mitochondrial metabolism and dynamics. The altered mitochondrial dynamics attenuates apoptosis of infected hepatocytes thus leading to the maintenance of persistent viral hepatitis. These activities contribute to the mitochondrial liver injury associated with chronic hepatitis B and C and are relevant to liver disease pathogenesis associated with the viral infection.

Claude Sirlin, MD – UCSD

Dr. Claude Sirlin is a clinician-scientist with expertise in non-invasive imaging of chronic liver disease and liver cancer. His research focuses on the development, refinement, validation, and clinical translation of quantitative imaging biomarkers to assess chronic liver disease and on the standardization of imaging techniques and diagnostic algorithms to detect, characterize, and report liver cancer. He oversee a diverse research group of physicists, radiologists, biostatisticians, technologists, coordinators, image analysts, and directs the radiology reading center for industry and NIH multi-center studies.

Mamata Sivagnanam, MD – UCSD

Dr. Sivagnanam's research program focuses on how mutations in EpCAM lead to intestinal epithelial cell dysfunction and thus, clinical manifestations of congenital tufting enteropathy (CTE). She recently completed her K08 Mentored Clinical Scientist Research Career Development Award, has proven to be a tremendous boost in the launching of this project. She aims to advance this project in a new direction with novel murine and enteroid models. This project has relevance, not only to this disease, but also to gain further understanding of epithelial homeostasis, intestinal failure and diarrheal diseases. A recent R01 has allowed her to take this project in an innovative direction.

Ajit Varki, MD – UCSD

Dr. Ajit Varki's research interests are focused on a family of sugars called sialic acids and their roles in biology, evolution and disease. Sialic acids are found at the outermost position on the glycan chains of all vertebrate cell surfaces and glycoproteins and the highest levels are found in the nervous system. Currently, active projects are relevant to the roles of sialic acids in microbial infection; the regulation of the immune response; the progression of cancer and unique aspects of human evolution. Dr. Varki is particularly interested in understanding the multiple differences in sialic acid biology between humans and the closest evolutionary cousins, the great apes. These differences are a signature of the events that occurred during the last few million years of human evolution and may be relevant to understanding aspects of the current human condition, both in health and disease.