Helmsley Trust Awards $4.7 Million for Crohn's Disease Research

Helmsley Trust Awards $4.7 Million for Crohn's Disease Research

The University of California, San Diego has announced grants totaling $4.7 million from the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust in support of efforts to improve surgical outcomes and therapeutics for Crohn's disease. 

A grant of $3.5 million will support the efforts of a cross-disciplinary team of biologists, computer science engineers, pathologists, and gastroenterologists led by Pradipta Ghosh, director of the School of Medicine's Center for Network Medicine, and Soumita Das, chief scientific officer and director of the center's HUMANOID Center of Research Excellence, to build and validate a stem cell-based "gut-in-a-dish" model of Crohn's disease that can serve as a "Phase 0" human model before the initiation of clinical trials. 

"This approach will help us to predict an individual's response to therapeutics and, thus, personalize treatments — reducing the chances he or she will be prescribed a drug that won't work or might have negative side effects," said Ghosh.

An additional grant of $1.2 million will fund a pilot project led by Larry Smarr, director of the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology (Calit2), focused on refining software used to translate two-dimensional medical imagery into interactive 3D images that better reveal strictures — the narrowing and/or twisting of the small and large intestines — in Crohn's patients. The project will bring together doctors, surgeons, radiologists, and computer scientists, including Jürgen Schulze, an associate research scientist with Calit2's Qualcomm Institute.

"Our team developed the initial software to support my own surgical sigmoid colon resection in 2016. While working with my medical team using our one-off 3D representations of my colon, it quickly became evident that what was needed is a tool to enable doctors and surgeons to work routinely in the 3D reality of their patients," said Smarr, who has the disease. "Helmsley's support will allow us to further develop the software and understand how its use can improve outcomes for patients."

(Photo credit: University of California, San Diego)

"Helmsley Charitable Trust Grants UC San Diego $4.7M to Study Crohn’s Disease." University of California, San Diego Press Release 05/09/2019.