Innovative Research Grant
University of California, San Diego

Gary Firestein, MDHow do you think your research will impact your local community?
We are trying to understand how the central nervous system can affect immune responses and inflammation in the joints. There is considerable interest in the community on the “mind-body” connection, and we think that the public will enjoy learning that there is science behind their practical experiences.

How would you ultimately like to see your research applied?
We believe that this work will influence how certain drugs are designed. Currently, many companies are trying to keep these compounds out of the central nervous system. Our data suggest that this will prevent patients from receiving maximum benefit.

What are your impressions of the Arthritis Foundation?
The Arthritis Foundation has been a God-send for researchers in an era when other funding agencies, such as the NIH, are dramatically decreasing support. Junior investigators would be unable to support their work without the AF, and interesting programs that are not ready for NIH support would not get done.

What role do you feel the Arthritis Foundation plays in the progress of arthritis research?
As noted above, the junior investigators are largely dependent on the Arthritis Investigator Awards to make the transition from trainee to faculty. Without the AF, these individuals would leave research, leaving a major gap in the research pipeline of talented investigators.

Given the prevalence of arthritis – one in three Americans with the disease – do you have a personal connection that makes the disease more than a statistic to you?
Not applicable

Considering all the medical conditions in need of your field of research, what are the mysteries surrounding arthritis that interest you most?
I am still fascinated by the complexities of rheumatoid arthritis. We have made improvements in management, but there is still a long way to go.
When you’re not in the lab, where can you most often be found?
I am an addicted surfer…in the ocean, not the internet. I surf several times a week in San Diego and travel to other locations to feed this passion (Costa Rica, Hawaii, Fiji, etc.).

Favorite non-medical book you read last?
1776 by McCullough

Favorite music and artist?
My kids are embarrassed by my eclectic taste, which includes some rap (Eminem and Kanye West), country western (Johnny Cash), oldies (Beach Boys and Beatles), and the classics (Beethoven and Mozart)

If you weren’t a medical researcher, what would you be doing now?
My dream job is a professional surfer…but I am too old and fragile now!

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