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discoveries magazine

A Gut Check for Precision Medicine

Gifts that Count: Precision Health and Targeted Therapies

Dr. Stephan Targan, Dr. Kathrin Michelsen, Dr. Shervin Rabizadeh, and Susie Lee at the F. Widjaja Foundation Inflammatory Bowel and Immunobiology Research Institute.

The greatest strength of the F. Widjaja Foundation Inflammatory Bowel and Immunobiology Research Institute is the team of experts who work, ideate, and treat patients together. (From left) Institute leader Dr. Stephan Targan shares a laugh with research scientist Dr. Kathrin Michelsen, Pediatric Inflammatory Bowel Disease Program Director Dr. Shervin Rabizadeh, and nurse practitioner Susie Lee. Photo: Scott Witter

Stephan Targan, MD, has dedicated his career to investigating and combating inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). One donor’s gift empowered him to build the F. Widjaja Foundation Inflammatory Bowel and Immunobiology Research Institute into an investigatory powerhouse with international influence in changing how the condition is treated.

The institute unites pioneering multidisciplinary investigators with the goal of increasing the speed at which potential IBD treatments can be applied. They work in synergy to define the genetic and biological characteristics most likely to respond to specific therapeutics. Institute scientists were the first to reveal the role of intestinal fungus in IBD, opening up paths to future therapies. Another team employed stem cell research to create miniature gut replicas in the lab.

The philanthropic gift also allowed Targan, the Feintech Family Chair in Inflammatory Bowel Disease, to expand the Cedars-Sinai Material and Information Resources for Inflammatory and Digestive Diseases Biobank. It is the world’s largest collection of IBD specimens, with 20,000 individuals to date participating in Cedars-Sinai IBD studies.

► Other precision medicine advances included demonstrating that adding hormone therapy to radiation treatment can improve the average long-term survival of men with prostate cancer whose prostates have been removed.

Campaign Feat

Healing Hearts

Goal: Turn the tide on damage caused by a common type of congestive heart failure.

Outcome: Donor contributions enabled Smidt Heart Institute investigators to explore a new cell therapy that concentrates on finding proteins in the blood that might predict how stem cell treatments will affect individual heart failure patients. An important part of this work is learning more about the role these and other proteins play in regenerating heart cells.

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Meet Natalie Harris Brown. Diagnosed with Crohn’s disease by Targan 21 years ago, she refuses to let the condition define her.