Worlds collide at Research Trainee Symposium

| Joe Doolen

This past October, some of the brightest young minds in psoriatic disease research met with leading experts in the field in Portland, Oregon, at the second annual National Psoriasis Foundation Research Trainee Symposium.

The Research Trainee Symposium began last year as a way to bring together early career researchers working on newly awarded projects funded by NPF. Over the two-day event, researchers introduced their projects as orals and posters, and participated in sessions surrounding the patient perspective, career development and collaboration. Twenty trainees attended alongside seven faculty, including one representative from the U.S. National Institutes of Health.

Trainees are supported by NPF Fellowships and Early Career Research Grants, which help foster careers in both the research and treatment of psoriatic disease. This year’s NPF-funded projects include:

  • Profiling of molecules in guttate psoriasis and new psoriatic flares
  • Studying the poorly understood genetic mechanism of an effective form of coal tar treatment
  • Investigating comorbidities (concurrent chronic disease) of the eye
  • Determining the risk of hospitalization for pneumonia in psoriasis patients


At the poster session, attendees had the chance to hear from other NPF-funded scientists about their psoriatic disease research.

Juul van den Reek, M.D., Ph.D., was not the only trainee from another country, but she traveled the farthest distance from her laboratory at Radboud University Medical Center in the Netherlands. As an NPF Psoriatic Disease Research Fellow, Dr. van den Reek uses patient-oriented data, in this case called targeted proteomics data, to determine patient physiological response to biologic treatment. One of the goals of her research is to eliminate the practice of trial and error commonly found in treating psoriatic disease.

Dr. Juul van den Reek, Radboud University, Nijmegen, Netherlands

“We aim to find predictors in the blood, such as proteins or genes, that can predict whether the patient is better off with biologic A than B, for instance,” said van den Reek. “This information should be used to identify which treatment would be the best option for that patient. This could lead to earlier and better disease control, and less waste of time and money.”

Other poster presentations mapped how researchers will use or have used patient data to understand the impact of psoriasis treatment on a patient’s income, the elevated risk of diabetes in psoriasis patients and overall quality of life indicators.

In the area of “basic science,” or research aimed at understanding fundamental problems underlying disease, research trainee Cory Simpson, M.D., Ph.D., is getting at the root of some big challenges. He said that many psoriasis treatments carry unwanted risks (like suppressing the immune system), are messy (like topical ointments) or are burdensome for patients (like thrice weekly ultraviolet light therapy).

“By identifying the pathways and proteins involved in keratinocyte (epidermal cell) maturation, we can test whether these are impaired in psoriasis. This could lead to the identification of novel targets for the development of new medications,” Simpson said.

Simpson, an awardee of NPF’s Early Career Research Grant, knows firsthand that starting a long and productive research career can be tough. “Support from NPF makes a huge difference at this formative stage in my career. If an early-stage investigator fails to get his or her own funding, that can quickly derail an academic research career, which relies heavily on outside support from agencies like NPF,” Simpson said.

The second day of the Research Trainee Symposium focused on career development. Faculty and NPF members led seminars on getting involved with advocacy and communicating one’s own research – topics especially important for NPF’s patient-centered approach. Other breakout sessions covered themes such as applying for funding, writing grants, and using scientific models in research (e.g., human cells, mouse models, patient-oriented data and “big data”).

Fellowship and grant applications are currently being accepted. The deadline to apply is January 19, 2018, with the exception of the Bridge grant, for which applications are accepted year-round. Next year’s Research Trainee Symposium is scheduled to take place in October 2018 in Portland, Oregon.


Driving Discovery, Creating Community

This year, we’re celebrating 50 years of driving efforts to cure psoriatic disease and improve the lives of those affected. See how far we’ve come with this timeline of NPF’s history. But there’s still plenty to do, and we can’t do it without you! Learn how you can help our advocacy team shape the laws and policies that affect people with psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis – in your state and across the country. Help us raise funding to promote research into better treatments and a cure by joining Team NPF, where you can walk, run, cycle, play bingo or even create your own DIY event. Contact our Patient Navigation Center for free, personalized support for living a healthier life with psoriatic disease. And keep the National Psoriasis Foundation going strong by making a donation today! Together, we will find a cure.

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