This NIH/NIDDK GI Core Center was funded in 2011 and evolved from the growth of research base and growing need for Core services from an R24 MiniCenter that had existed for 8 years. The Center from the time of formation has emphasized interactive research between basic science and clinical faculty involved in basic or translational research. The Focus Group themes were initially epithelial biology and transport and trafficking, inflammation and fibrosis and IBD, and Pre-cancer with a strong GI cancer group at Hopkins not part of this Center given strong NCI support for that group of investigators. The Center was founded by Mark Donowitz, M.D., with the Associate Director Ann Hubbard, Ph.D., and Cindy Sears, M.D., as the Head of the Research Base. The Core Center achieved its first renewal 2015 with the Focus Group Themes evolving to include heavy metal biology and GI involvement, the addition of neurogastroenterology with the recruitment of Jay Pasricha, M.D., Chief of Neurogastroenterology, the inflammation, injury and fibrosis theme expanded to further develop host-pathogen interactions. Leadership was altered in response to Dr. Hubbard’s retirement with Svetlana Lutsenko, Ph.D. (primary appointment JHU Physiology and a secondary appointment in GI/Medicine), initially joining as Associate Director and more recently assuming the position as Co-Director; Jay Pasricha, M.D. jointed Cindy Sears as Associate Director.
The overall mission of the NIH/NIDDK Hopkins Conte Center for Basic and translational Research has as the goal of the Center to make GI research as excellent as it could be at Hopkins and to develop interactions between members of the JHU basic science departments and clinical departments to encourage interactions of basic and translational researchers. GI research at JHU has multiple areas of strengths that include epithelial biology, transport molecular and cellular biology, neurogastroenterology, inflammation and injury, host-pathogen interactions, and inflammation and effects on proliferation and pre-cancer. The Center’s goals are to advance research in these areas by developing Core Services that can not easily or economically be achieved by single laboratories. These goals are being achieved by providing leadership to develop, organize, administer, evaluate and deliver Core services. Interactions among Center investigators is encouraged by providing a six-part enrichment program that brings members of the different Focus Groups together. These include a weekly Work-in-Progress meeting, a yearly named Lectureship (Alan Hofmann and Family Lectureship), a yearly all-day symposium on a topic relevant to one of the Focus Group, a Research Base retreat linked to the Hofmann Lecture, Core Workshops, and a Mini-Sabbatical program. In addition as part of the weekly Work-in-Progress chalk talks by leaders of the Focus Groups are presented to give an overview of the research taking part in each Focus Group to encourage scientific questions to be asked across the lines of the Focus Groups. A Research Retreat is held with a similar goal, with a mixture of chalk talks by senior investigators and powerpoint presentations by more junior investigators and “speed dating interactions” to allow incipient collaborations and/or interactions to occur.