Penn Receives $4 Million NIH Grant for New Skin Biology and Diseases Resource-based Center

Funding Will Enable Expansion of Skin Research, More Rapid Translation into Patient Treatment

PHILADELPHIA – The National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases of the National Institutes of Health has awarded Sarah E. Millar, PhD, the Albert M. Kligman Professor and Vice-Chair for Basic Research in the Department of Dermatology, and George Cotsarelis, MD, the Milton Bixler Hartzell Professor and Chair of Dermatology in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, a $4 million, five-year grant to establish the Penn Skin Biology and Diseases Resource-based Center (SBDRC).

Millar will be Director and Cotsarelis will be Co-Director of the new Center, which will be one of three nationally.

The funding will support new research infrastructure, technological innovations, shared research core facilities, and other services for investigators carrying out research on skin biology and diseases. In addition the SBDRC will fund pilot and feasibility studies, and will initiate Saturday Academy and Summer Internship programs for local high school students interested in research in skin health and disease.

Members of the SBDRC include researchers interested in mechanisms underlying skin and hair development; regenerative processes, stem cells, and wound healing; skin bioengineering; the composition and functions of the microbiome in normal and diseased skin; skin aging and precancerous lesions; atopic dermatitis; autoimmune diseases; and inflammatory conditions such as psoriasis. The SBDRC encompasses basic research on human and animal models, cells, and tissues; translational and clinical studies; analysis of health disparities in skin disease treatment and outcomes; and the epidemiology of skin diseases.

Penn Medicine has an outstanding group of researchers interested in skin biology and diseases who will benefit from this grant,” Millar said. “Our team will be able to strengthen interdisciplinary collaboration with the aim of preventing, diagnosing, and treating a wide range of skin-based diseases and conditions. By providing core services and pilot and feasibility grant funding we also expect to attract new investigators to this field.”

An overall goal of the grant is to enhance basic, clinical, and translational skin-based research. “In addition to generating gains for patients, this new Center will strengthen our community of skin researchers,” Cotsarelis said. “We will aim to increase the number of women and minority faculty members, expand mentoring, and enhance research opportunities for junior faculty members. We are excited to launch our community outreach program whose goal is to spark the interest of Philadelphia public school students in skin-oriented research.”

Under the federal funding guidelines, recipients must establish one or more resource cores, which comprise facilities and resources shared by various investigators, enabling them to conduct their independently funded research projects more efficiently and effectively. The new Penn Center will have three research cores:

  • Skin Histology and Characterization Core to provide state-of-the-art microscopic services for examining skin tissue to better understand disease
  • Skin Procurement and Engineering Core to provide fresh skin and primary skin cells from normal and diseased humans and mice for analysis
  • Study Design and Data Analysis Core to provide statistical and bioinformatics services to ensure successful design and implementation of skin-based research projects
  • Administrative Core to oversee and coordinate activities within the Penn Skin Biology and Diseases Resource-based Center

This research is supported by the NIH grant 1P30AR069589-01.

Penn Medicine is one of the world’s leading academic medical centers, dedicated to the related missions of medical education, biomedical research, and excellence in patient care. Penn Medicine consists of the Raymond and Ruth Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania (founded in 1765 as the nation’s first medical school) and the University of Pennsylvania Health System, which together form a $5.3 billion enterprise.

The Perelman School of Medicine has been ranked among the top five medical schools in the United States for the past 18 years, according to U.S. News & World Report’s survey of research-oriented medical schools. The School is consistently among the nation’s top recipients of funding from the National Institutes of Health, with $373 million awarded in the 2015 fiscal year.

The University of Pennsylvania Health System’s patient care facilities include: The Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and Penn Presbyterian Medical Center — which are recognized as one of the nation’s top “Honor Roll” hospitals by U.S. News & World Report — Chester County Hospital; Lancaster General Health; Penn Wissahickon Hospice; and Pennsylvania Hospital — the nation’s first hospital, founded in 1751. Additional affiliated inpatient care facilities and services throughout the Philadelphia region include Chestnut Hill Hospital and Good Shepherd Penn Partners, a partnership between Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Network and Penn Medicine.

Penn Medicine is committed to improving lives and health through a variety of community-based programs and activities. In fiscal year 2015, Penn Medicine provided $253.3 million to benefit our community.