DIA 2019 Keynote Speaker Gary H. Gibbons Will Set the Stage for an Inspiring and Informative Event for San Diego Life Science Researchers and Professionals

This content is sponsored by Drug Information Association, Inc. 

You may have seen a recent blog post in which Scripps Research graduate Sudip Parikh, now Senior Vice President of the Drug Information Association (DIA), talks about his journey from being a researcher to leading the DIA, an organization that serves to bridge drug discovery to marketed drugs. In the article, Sudip pointed out that the DIA 2019 meeting in San Diego June 23-25 will be a great place for drug discovery researchers to learn how their work is translated into cures, and for drug development professionals to improve their knowledge and skills. The SDBN is happy to be working with DIA to promote their flagship meeting, and we are publishing a DIA 2019 blog series leading up to the event.

A good conference keynote speaker sets the tone for the meeting and provides an inspiring perspective to attendees and the field in general. DIA 2019’s keynote speaker, Dr. Gary H. Gibbons, Director of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), is an excellent choice to kick off the meeting, as the NHLBI’s $3 billion budget funds cutting edge research which leads to the development of drugs that improve millions of lives. In addition, Dr. Gibbons’ vision for the NHBLI can be viewed as a template for more modern, collaborative successful drug discovery and development.

Dr. Gibbons joined the NHLBI in 2012, continuing a career of distinguished public health service that he credits to his mother, who founded and supported numerous charities and individuals during his childhood in a predominantly African American neighborhood near Philadelphia. Dr. Gibbons has brought his commitment to stewardship to benefit patients and scientists alike by setting the strategic vision of the NHLBI. Below is a snapshot of several key NHLBI initiatives that Dr. Gibbons is leading that are highly relevant to both the DIA 2019 meeting and the San Diego life science community.

New Collaborations to Cure Disease. Dr. Gibbons is spearheading the NIH/NHLBI’s Cure Sickle Cell Initiative, which will leverage the many years of disease research data, new genetic methods such as gene therapy and gene editing, and increased patient engagement towards the goal of finding a cure in 5 years. Sickle cell disease has been called the “first molecular disorder” as its genetic cause was discovered in 1949, but 70 years later palliative care is the only treatment option for the 300,000 afflicted people that are born each year. Socioeconomic forces have contributed greatly to the lack of a cure, calling for an interdisciplinary approach.  The Cure Sickle Cell Initiative is taking a “Nucleotides to Neighborhoods” approach which will leverage the resources and data from academic institutions, biotech and pharmaceutical companies, federal agencies, professional societies, and patient advocacy groups to bring advanced therapies to these patients. This approach is inspiring to San Diego life scientists and professionals, as they can use similar strategies to advance therapies in discovery and developmental stages locally, especially with our wealth of genomic resources and data. Which local organizations could join the Cure Sickle Cell Initiative and similar programs and which diseases do we have the data to make a real difference?

Increases in Discovery Research Funding. Dr. Gibbons has led the NHLBI to fund more early stage research, realizing its importance. Since 2012, NHLBI has increased its funding percentage for R01 grants by more than 10% for both established and new investigators. NHLBI-funded projects have a very broad scope as the organization supports research involving the heart, lungs, and blood, and learning about the current opportunities and the direction of funding will help you, whether you’re working in academia or industry. NHLBI’s commitment to increase discovery research funding goes hand in hand with their collaborative efforts such as the Cure Sickle Cell Initiative, as there are many benefits to bringing scientists closer to the patients they serve. NIH’s All of Us Research Program, which will generate patient data on an unprecedented scale, is also key to NHLBI’s collaborative efforts, and has a strong genomics component. While local organizations are already participating in collaborations such as All of Us, it would be great for more local researchers and professionals to learn about how the San Diego life science community can be even more involved.

Scientific Career Advancement. Dr. Gibbons is an excellent choice to be the keynote speaker at DIA 2019 because he shares their vision in supporting scientists’ career growth (for more details see posts in this series). One of the objectives of the NHLBI Strategic Mission is to “further develop, diversify, and sustain a scientific workforce capable of accomplishing the NHLBI’s mission.” Key to this objective is increasing the diversity of the workforce by expanding exposure to potential young scientists. Indeed, these efforts dovetail with NHLBI’s overall mission to improve the health of all Americans, as a diverse scientific community will better address the needs of underrepresented populations, such as the African Americans who are more susceptible to sickle cell disease. NHLBI’s support of scientists extends to working scientists, and in a recent presentation he outlined the many grants and awards available, including a loan repayment program.  Dr. Gibbons is also very supportive of the scientists and health professionals that work at the NHLBI, encouraging them to be heart healthy by exercising during the day. Local scientists and principal investigators should attend to learn about these funding  opportunities for themselves or their lab.

With Dr. Gibbons as the keynote speaker, you can be assured not only of an inspiring and informative presentation, but that the DIA 2019 meeting will share his vision of collaboration. Throughout the meeting you’ll network with many who can advance your drug discovery, drug development, or patient engagement goals. Check back soon to see the next in our DIA 2019 series.

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