Most of my lab at this time is actually focused on the genetics of an autoimmune disease called Alopecia Areata which is an autoimmune condition where the hair follicle is attacked by immune cells and so we’ve done quite a bit of work on the genetics of that. We’ve developed a pre-taped preclinical animal testing for new drug therapies and now we’ve helped to accelerate clinical trials so it’s really been a huge team effort over the past five or so years.
It’s one that’s really turned out to be quite rewarding and very exciting for us this basic scientists to be able to participate in clinical trials and a new clinical research our lab at the moment is really largely focused on alopecia areata which is an autoimmune disease where the body begins to attack the hair follicle over the past five or so years we’ve worked out most of the genetics at least the easy part of alopecia areata. We’ve started to use information to design new animal studies and test new unexpected that piece for alopecia areata using fda-approved drugs and so it’s been a real exciting experience for us to move from basic genetics into animal studies into the clinic something that’s really turned out to be very exciting.
I think one of the main findings in alopecia areata that was exciting and new for us was sort of turning over the old idea that perhaps alopecia areata was most related to skin autoimmune diseases like psoriasis atopic dermatitis. What the genetic code is really, was that we were more aligned at the genetic level two unexpected diseases celiac disease rheumatoid arthritis and type 1 diabetes Just using that simple shift in direction really open their eyes to a whole different way of looking at disease pathogenesis. Taking a lesson from those other conditions, we turn our attention to different signaling pathways that then that had previously been looked at in alopecia which then in turn led us to predicting a new class of drugs called jak inhibitors that might actually work to target some of those pathways.
So most of the excitement really was led by new insights into the genetics which then triggers a whole new cascade in terms of where the disease took us a new treatments that could be predicted maybe based on genetic target. We’ve already had tremendous feedback from patients without periodic who are taking these drugs either in the setting of clinical trials or privately with their own physicians.
The results have really been surprisingly dramatic many patients if not most have had significant hair regrowth as a result of taking a jak inhibitor and these are in many cases patients who had long-standing total hair loss who had been unresponsive to just about anything else that they had tried. So the early feedback is from practitioners from dermatologist as well as patient that maybe this is finally a new class of drugs that will hold some shorter term hope for alopecia patients.
These are already fda-approved drugs and there’s the chance for repurposing may be seeking a new indication for the same drug or what’s happened in the past year and new interest on the part of the drug companies in starting drug trials primarily for alopecia areata. Having trials designed specifically for this disease, i think will really help accelerate getting these treatments into the head the patients in a quick manner as president of the SSID this year. I’ve really taken onto main themes to try and advance both through the society and through next year’s meeting one is to enhance academic industry partnership so much of our work has been really accelerated in the past few years by joining together with companies to test some new therapies that it was already a nascent theme in the society.
I had hoped to bring further along next year in the program the other one actually became very evident this year and really is something close to my heart and that is to begin to expand inclusion and diversity in themes for the society. In particular the formation of a new committee that will deal with inclusion and diversity as a group go through our program through educational activities -the inclusion of women and people of different backgrounds of scientists and researchers of different ages and stages whether they’re an industry academia government different geographies.