Most new fellows have little or no research experience, and one of the major goals of the UW Allergy and Immunology Fellowship Program is to initiate this experience. Fellows are provided the opportunity in the first month of training to meet with faculty members and learn about projects in their laboratory that are of interest to each trainee. Following these initial interactions, fellows join an ongoing allergy/immunology research project in the first year, then expand and individualize their project during their second and third years.
Each fellow meets regularly with a Scientific Oversight Committee consisting of at least three faculty members both within and outside of the Allergy/Immunology Fellowship Program. This committee reviews the fellow's scientific progress and provides advice about their research, as well as career advice, including grant opportunities and customization of the fellowship program to achieve the fellow's goals. Towards the end of fellowship training, this committee also assists with job search and placement.
Fellows present their research findings locally at the Allergy research conference (twice per year) and the Wisconsin Allergy Society (once per year). In addition, fellows present research at the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI) annual meeting, as well as other national meetings, depending on the focus of each research project. These fellow/faculty research interactions are highly productive, generally facilitating at least one research publication by each fellow during their fellowship training.
The fellowship is structured to provide the following protected research time:
- 40% time during the first year
- 60% during the second year
- 80% during the third year, which is dedicated to specialized research and academic pursuits
The support for this research activity comes, in part, from an NIH NIAID T32 Training Grant. The T32 Training Grant has supported fellows' research endeavors in the UW Allergy and Immunology program since 2000. It was recently renewed for another cycle of funding through 2020.
In addition, involvement in basic science research, fellows also gain experience in clinical research projects and topics related to the conduct of clinical protocols.
Asthma and Immunology Research Programs
Childhood Origins of ASThma (COAST) is an NIH-funded longitudinal study led by Dr. Robert Lemanske that follows a cohort of 270 children born at high risk for childhood asthma and allergies. This study evaluates how genetic and environmental factors, especially viral respiratory tract infections, contribute to the expression, progression, and remission of those disorders. COAST recently received a five-year renewal to further analyze the mechanisms underlying gender-specific changes in asthma prevalence during adolescence, and the contribution of the microbiome and allergic and nonallergic immunologic and genetic pathways in asthma development.
The Eosinophil Program Project Grant (PPG) is an NIH-funded study led by Dr. Nizar Jarjour that focuses on elucidating the role of eosinophils in the airway inflammation and remodeling in asthma. The project has investigated how the activation of eosinophil integrin receptors directs to their extravasation into the airway and the role of a peptidyl-prolyl isomerase, Pin-1, role in regulating eosinophil activation.
The Severe Asthma Research Program (SARP) led by Dr. Nizar Jarjour is focused on identifying factors that contribute to the development of severe asthma to help guide new approaches to therapy. As Principal Investigator for the Wisconsin site of this multi-center network, Dr. Jarjour is interested in the role asthma exacerbations play in worsening asthma severity. Imaging techniques including CT scans and MRI along with pulmonary functions and a host of biologic tests are providing new insights into changes in lung function and structure following exacerbations. In addition, Dr. Loren Denlinger is studying the role of airway lipid metabolites in the resolution of exacerbations experienced in these patients.
Funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NIH-NHLBI), AsthmaNet is a multi-center grant to design, implement, and conduct asthma treatment trials in both children and adults. Dr. Robert Lemanske and Dr. Christine Sorkness lead the AsthmaNet Center at UW and Dr. William Busse serves as Chair of the AsthmaNet Steering Committee. Current focuses include evaluation of the role of vitamin D as an add-on therapy for both children and adults, evaluating the benefits of azithromycin for preventing lower respiratory tract symptoms in children suffering from upper respiratory tract illness, and investigating the role of oral corticosteroids in treating episodes of lower respiratory tract symptoms in children.
The Asthma and Allergic Disease Cooperative Research Center (AADCRC), which is funded by the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIH-NIAID), is led at UW by Dr. James Gern. The focus of this effort is to study the mechanisms and environmental determinants of rhinovirus illness severity and relationship of early childhood wheezing illnesses to the subsequent development of asthma.
The Inner City Asthma Consortium (ICAC) is a nationwide, multicenter consortium led by Dr. William Busse, Dr. James Gern, and Dr. Christine Sorkness to identify state of the art immune-based treatments for asthma in children residing in urban areas. The consortium has received a total of $190 million from the National Institutes of Health since its inception in 2002. Its work spans 10 study sites (Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Cincinnati, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, St. Louis, New York City and Washington, DC), involving hundreds of researchers and thousands of families. As the headquarters for ICAC, UW provides scientific and administrative leadership. In 2014, the NIH provided $70 million in funding for Phase III of the effort, allowing continuation of the Urban Environment and Childhood Asthma (URECA) Study (see below), yielding longitudinal data on participants from birth through ages 14 to 16. These data will allow researchers to study the immunologic basis of childhood asthma, the onset of disease during adolescence, and the events correlated with remission. An additional objective of ICAC Phase III is to determine whether administration of environmental antigens (such as cockroach antigen alone or in combination with mouse, dog, or house dust antigens) provides effective immunologic desensitization, thereby shifting the immune response from allergy to tolerance.
The Urban Environment and Childhood Asthma (URECA) study, which is funded by ICAC, is led by Dr. James Gern. URECA is a birth cohort study to identify environmental factors in inner cities that promote the development of childhood allergies and asthma.
Studies from several continents have identified a protective relationship between early life animal farming exposure and the development of allergic diseases. There is accumulating evidence that immune maturation may be affected by farming exposures in utero. However, the precise impact of farming exposures on immune maturation remains unexplored. Dr. Christine Seroogy has established a novel birth cohort to better determine longitudinal changes in infant immune maturation, allergic sensitization, and the clinical response to common respiratory viral infections affected by farm exposures. Pregnant women, recruited from rural Wisconsin, are grouped according to farm exposure (farm exposure is defined as living on a farm with direct animal contact 4 days per week). Dr. Seroogy's laboratory, which is focused generally on understanding the immunologic contexts that lead to CD4+ T cell unresponsiveness or anergy, has optimized two multi-parameter flow cytometry assays to define cord blood innate cell responses to varied TLR agonists and rhinovirus. These assays will allow for in-depth characterization at the single cell level of immune maturation, and correlations with allergic diseases and severity of viral respiratory diseases in the first two years of life.