A Bold New Effort Aims to Harness the Mechanisms of Resilience

Duke University in 2019 initiated a university-wide effort to elevate and sustain excellence in the sciences with new funding for research, recruitment of nationally recognized scholars, and retainment of highly regarded scientific leaders at Duke. Launched with a $100 million investment from The Duke Endowment — divided equally between the university and the School of Medicine — Duke Science and Technology (DST) positions Duke to maximize the potential of revolutionary advances in fields such as genomics, data science, and artificial intelligence.

The effort focuses on three broad thematic pillars: Resilience: Fortifying the Body and Brain, which seeks to harness the body’s intrinsic mechanisms to fight disease; Computing, involving fields such as artificial intelligence and machine learning; and Materials Science, which seeks to engineer new materials to solve challenges in disparate fields.

School of Medicine researchers are leading in efforts to advance the Body and Brain Resilience pillar, focusing on four broad areas where Duke has significant strengths: brain, cancer, immunology, and viruses. Seven DST Scholars have been recruited as faculty in the School of Medicine.

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School of Medicine DST News and Videos

A Fountain of Youth for the Brain

Wisdom may come with age, but young people have the advantage when it comes to learning. Duke neurobiologist Lindsey Glickfeld, Ph.D., wants to know why. More to the point, she wants to know how. What are the mechanics in the brain and how do those mechanics change from childhood to adulthood? What she discovers could one day help older people regain some ease of learning. Perhaps it could even lead to a treatment that could help stroke survivors relearn important early skills, like walking and talking.

Enhancing the Research Enterprise at Duke: Building on Duke Science and Technology

Duke University recently launched Duke Science and Technology (DST), a fundraising and faculty recruitment and retention effort aimed at elevating and sustaining excellence in the sciences. The effort is designed to accelerate the recruitment of new faculty and expand core research strengths in three main areas: resilience of the body and brain, computation, and materials science.

Zhao Zhang, PhD: Follow the Jumping Genes

Zhao Zhang, PhD — ZZ to just about everyone — is a bit of a scientific outlier. While most of his bioscience colleagues around the world are studying the 23,000 protein-coding genes that make us human, the assistant professor of pharmacology and cancer biology is looking at the other part of the genome and asking what it does.

Carolyn Coyne, PhD: Exploring How Viruses Evade the Placental Barrier

The human placenta performs a delicate balancing act: it must let beneficial nutrients pass from the mother to the developing fetus, but block harmful pathogens from making the same trip. Carolyn Coyne, PhD, investigates how the placenta has evolved to be such a fantastic protector but can also be vulnerable to pathogens.

Josh Huang, PhD: Shining a Light on the Traffic Signals in the Brain

Think of the inner circuitry of the brain as a traffic network. When nerve cells release a signal, the information speeds along various routes to its destination: another nerve cell elsewhere in the brain. Neurobiologist Josh Huang, PhD, is especially interested in a particular type of inhibitory nerve cells called chandelier cells.

Ed Miao, PhD: Moves and Countermoves in the Immune System

When certain immune cells in our bodies are invaded by a dangerous pathogen, they sacrifice themselves to vanquish the intruders.

Immunologist Ed Miao, MD, PhD, studies pyroptosis — a type of programmed cell death in which a cell, once compromised by an enemy pathogen, literally blows itself up to prevent the pathogen from spreading in the body.

Duke Science and Technology is ‘Accepting the Challenge’

With a few large leadership gifts and some strategically placed advertising in national media, Duke University is launching a new fundraising effort designed to elevate excellence in the sciences. The faculty recruitment and retention effort, called Duke Science and Technology, will give the university resources to expand core strengths in Duke’s research, extending to nearly every corner of the university.

Discovery of I-Shaped Antibody Opens New Avenue to HIV Vaccine

About 38 million people worldwide are living with AIDS. Pharmaceutical treatments can keep the disease in check, but a vaccine remains elusive despite decades of concerted effort. However, a recent discovery at the Duke Human Vaccine Institute (DHVI) brings the goal of an effective vaccine within reach.