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Vilarinho and Wilson Win 2019 Clinical Scientist Development Awards

July 23, 2019

Yale School of Medicine Department of Internal Medicine’s Silvia Vilarinho, MD, PhD, assistant professor of medicine (digestive diseases) and of pathology, and Frederick Wilson, MD, PhD, assistant professor of medicine (medical oncology) and genetics, are winners of a 2019 Clinical Scientist Development Award (CSDA) from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation (DDCF).

Vilarinho’s work centers on rare and undiagnosed liver disease, which represents an unmet medical need in pediatric and adult hepatology, including cholestasis of unknown causes. Cholestasis, the slowing or stopping of bile flow from the liver, leads to liver injury and for a significant number of cases, the cause is unknown. Vilarinho’s patient-centered approach combines genomic tools, human iPSC-derived liver cell based models and deep phenotyping to uncover what is driving the liver injury in these unknown cases. Collectively, identifying an underlying genetic defect will provide a diagnosis to the patient(s), new insight(s) into the role of specific genes in the maintenance of normal liver function and disease causes; and provides potential new therapeutic targets and options to patients with cholestasis.

"Receipt of the CSDA will be foundational towards independence by enabling expansion of my liver genomics research team and program,” said Vilarinho. “Moreover, it will give me the opportunity to pursue my passion to train and mentor DDCF-funded medical students throughout my physician-scientist career.”

Wilson’s research focuses on targeted therapies for the treatment of advanced non-small cell lung carcinoma (NSCLC) and melanoma. While these therapies can be beneficial for select patients, cancers eventually develop resistance such that these treatments are no longer effective. His proposal incorporates two complementary approaches to develop more robust targeted therapeutic strategies. First, his team looks to identify transcriptional signatures of drug resistance in NSCLC with the hypothesis that targeted therapies may converge on shared transcriptional outputs that could be subject to therapeutic disruption. In a second approach, they seek to combine established targeted therapies in NSCLC and melanoma with emerging small molecule inhibitors that target additional cancer vulnerabilities in model systems to delay or prevent acquired resistance.

“I am grateful to the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation for the honor of receiving this award, which will provide critical support to our efforts in understanding and combating resistance to targeted cancer therapeutics,” said Wilson.

The CSDA funds physician scientists who are at the early stages of their profession to help them transition to independent research careers through an award of $495,000 over three years.

The Sections of Digestive Diseases and Medical Oncology are two of the eleven academic sections within YSM’s Department of Internal Medicine. To learn more, visit Digestive Diseases or Medical Oncology.

Submitted by Julie Parry on July 23, 2019