Two days that could change the future of psoriatic disease

| Melissa Leavitt

Amid the neon lights and clattering casinos of Las Vegas, the presidential candidates conducted their final debate on Oct. 19, trading claims, comebacks and the occasional thought on policy.

But the real exchange of ideas was happening a thousand miles away, in downtown Portland, Oregon.

Nineteen young researchers and eight scientific superstars in the field of psoriatic disease came together for the first National Psoriasis Foundation Research Trainee Symposium.

The two-day event gave the trainees—recent graduates launching their careers as doctors and scientists—an opportunity to share their work, meet their peers and get indispensable guidance from the established researchers serving as faculty for the symposium.

Faculty and trainees alike were recipients of research funding from the National Psoriasis Foundation. Many of the trainees had won awards designed to help launch a career in psoriatic disease research, such as fellowships and Early Career Research Grants.

Fellowships aim to increase the number of clinician-scientists focused on studying and treating psoriatic disease and related conditions, while Early Career Research Grants support graduate students and postdoctoral researchers training to conduct psoriatic disease research independently.

The symposium faculty were living proof of how NPF funding can have a lasting impact on a career in psoriatic disease research. Many had received one-year Discovery Grants—which support preliminary or "proof-of-concept" studies—or two-year Translational Research Grants, which help research studies move from the discovery phase into the development of new treatments.

With decades of experience studying psoriatic disease, the faculty helped steer trainees in the right direction regarding challenges and stumbling blocks they might encounter.

Starting with a keynote address from Pete Miller, a member of NPF’s board of directors who has psoriatic disease, understanding the needs of people who live with psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis was an important theme throughout the symposium. Several people with psoriatic disease attended Wednesday’s and Thursday’s events.

NPF board member Pete Miller delivered the keynote address for the Research Trainee Symposium.

Young scientists debut their first important discoveries

Wednesday night wrapped up with a reception where patients and NPF staff mingled with researchers. Trainees brought posters displaying the latest findings from their work, chatting about their research projects and why they decided to study psoriatic disease. Many started conversations with faculty about the best techniques for studying psoriatic disease—discussions that continued the next day.

Faculty and trainees share ideas at the symposium's reception.

Imagine a speed-dating event where, instead of making awkward conversation, you’re hearing groundbreaking data from tomorrow’s leaders in psoriatic disease research. That’s what Thursday morning was like, when one trainee after another delivered a seven-minute overview of their work.

Trainees spoke on one of three topics: comorbidities (other conditions that people with psoriatic disease may be at risk for), the causes of psoriatic disease and treatments.

The symposium was the first time that many of the trainees had shared their findings. More than once, they said that they couldn’t provide all of the details, or they really shouldn’t be getting into the specifics, because their breakthroughs were about to be published in top medical journals.

How to succeed in studying psoriatic disease

Thursday afternoon belonged to the established experts. Several faculty delivered presentations on their specialty, whether it was clinical research, working with “Big Data” or piecing together the genetic code of psoriatic disease. The day concluded with a panel discussion featuring all of the faculty fielding questions from trainees and each other.

The symposium concluded with a panel featuring established psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis researchers.

Survival tips for a fruitful career in research dominated the panel. If you don’t receive a grant the first time you apply, apply again. Develop an expertise in something unique, so you become the go-to person in the field. And collaborate with people whose work you admire—and who keep you on your toes.

Their future research partners could be in the room right now, faculty told trainees. By the end of the symposium, new collaborations had already taken root with attendees making plans to discuss the latest methods and practices to help them take their research to the next level.

In a few years’ time, these are the collaborations that could lead to first-of-their-kind treatments that will improve the lives of people with psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis.

The Research Trainee Symposium is intended to be an annual event, with the next taking place in October 2017.

Fellowship applications are currently being accepted. The deadline to apply for a 2017-2018 fellowship is Jan. 18, 2017. For more information, click here.






Driving discovery, creating community

For more than 50 years, we’ve been driving efforts to cure psoriatic disease and improve the lives of those affected. But there’s still plenty to do! 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 funds to support research by joining Team NPF, where you can walk, run, cycle, play bingo or create your own fundraising event. If you or someone you love needs free, personalized support for living a healthier life with psoriatic disease, contact our Patient Navigation Center. And keep the National Psoriasis Foundation going strong by making a donation today. Together, we will find a cure.

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