September 8, 2003

UCSD Announces Appointment of Clinical Investigation Institute Director

Gary S. Firestein, M.D.

Gary S. Firestein, M.D., professor of medicine and chief of the Division of Rheumatology, Allergy and Immunology at the UCSD School of Medicine, has been named founding Director of the UCSD Health Sciences Clinical Investigation Institute (CII).

Firestein is an internationally recognized scientist and clinical investigator with extensive experience in the academic, industry and regulatory environments. He is uniquely qualified to lead the CII, which was established to strengthen UCSD’s capacity to move laboratory-based discovery to the development and evaluation of new therapies benefiting patients, according to Edward W. Holmes, UCSD Vice Chancellor for Health Sciences.

The CII is a key component of UCSD’s College of Integrated Life Sciences (COILS). COILS, which also includes the Institute for Molecular Medicine and the Academy of Clinician Scholars, is the Health Sciences initiative that focuses on enhancing pre-clinical disease-oriented research and translating the discoveries into novel therapeutics that improve human health. The CII will offer expertise in pre-clinical disease models, translational and patient-oriented research, core facilities, education and support to expedite the design and implementation of early proof-of-concept clinical trials.

“This exciting endeavor will provide an important new avenue for promoting clinical and translational research collaborations among our faculty, to support interactions with our colleagues in the private sector, and ultimately to serve the patients who will benefit from improved therapies,” said Holmes. “Under Dr. Firestein’s direction, the CII will lead our efforts to safely test promising new treatments in clinical trials with human subjects, providing a resource for investigators from UCSD and outside the campus.”

Firestein commented that “the CII will also serve as a touchstone to educate a new generation of researchers whose expertise will span from validating new targets in the laboratory to clinical efficacy. These programs will assure that our young investigators at UCSD are well equipped to explore the vast array of future therapies stimulated by exponential progress in genetics and biology.”

Firestein earned his undergraduate degree at Harvard and his M.D. at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, conducted his residency training at UCLA and completed fellowships in rheumatology and molecular biology. He joined the UCSD faculty in 1988, left to serve as Senior Director of Immunology of Gensia, Inc. in 1992, and returned to UCSD in 1996. He has been Chief of the Division of Rheumatology, Allergy and Immunology since 1998.

A specialist in rheumatoid arthritis and autoimmune diseases whose focus is novel therapeutic targets, Firestein is also founder and executive director of UCSD's Center for Innovative Therapy, which evaluates innovative therapies for immune-mediated inflammatory diseases. The goal of the Center is to discover new drug targets, facilitate their translation from research laboratory to patient care, and design and implement clinical trials of new therapies.

Firestein’s research in rheumatoid arthritis helped establish the importance of cytokines like TNF-alpha in rheumatoid arthritis and led to recently approved groundbreaking therapy for this disease. He is deputy editor of the journal Arthritis & Rheumatism, has written more than 170 papers and book chapters and is editor of the Kelley Textbook of Rheumatology. Firestein also chairs the Arthritis Advisory Committee of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

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