2015 Pathway Initiator Awardee Stephanie Stanford, PhD

Examining links between viral infections, genetics, and type 1 diabetes

Project title: PTPN22: Model Gene to Unravel the Interaction Between Genetics and Environment in Type 1 diabetes
Institution: University of California, San Diego
Pathway project publications: 2
Moved from La Jolla Institute for Allergy and Immunology to the University of California, San Diego to start first independent faculty position as Assistant Professor in 2016

Major accomplishments:

Soon after the start of my award, I obtained my first faculty position at the University of California San Diego (UCSD) in the Clinical and Translational Research Institute. This is the perfect environment for my laboratory to focus on disease-relevant science. In my first year at UCSD, I joined the Diabetes Research Center and obtained another small grant to study the role of a type 2 diabetes gene in adipogenesis. In addition to our continued progress in understanding the role of the tyrosine phosphatase PTPN22 in type 1 diabetes, we recently published a high-profile publication on the role of another enzyme in the same family of genes in obesity-associated diabetes. We showed that inhibiting this enzyme with a new chemical inhibitor that we developed dramatically improved diabetes induced by obesity in mice.

Impact statement:

The Pathway program is enabling a new generation of diabetes investigators to pursue their passion and apply their creativity to making a difference for those dealing with diabetes. The Pathway award has been extremely significant in my transition to independence and establishment as a diabetes investigator. The transition to independence in modern academia is difficult, but by providing a large, long-term grant, the Pathway program enabled me to obtain my first faculty position at an excellent university, start a new lab focused on diabetes research, hire personnel right away, and maintain a steady stream of diabetes-focused data production.

Most importantly, the Pathway program has ensured that I will be able to stay focused on diabetes research by providing me the resources to do so. I am committed to applying all that this award has provided to me to producing science that will be relevant to understanding why diabetes occurs and developing new strategies for therapeutic treatment of diabetes. The Pathway award has also opened doors for me to interact and form collaborations with more experienced, established diabetes investigators, which has substantially enhanced the depth of my research program.