The OHSU School of Medicine congratulates Matthew Drake, M.D., assistant professor of medicine, Division of Pulmonary/Critical Care Medicine, who has been selected for its Physician-Scientist Transitional Support award.
Members of the award selection committee say they were impressed with Dr. Drake’s overall proposal, publication record and “very favorable review from NIAID for his R01 submission.”
The junior physician-scientist is coming off an NIH Mentored Clinical Scientist Research Career Development Award (K08). The school’s Transitional Support award of $50,000 for one year (with option to renew the following year) will help Drake fund his research program while he seeks his first independent R01.
“This grant provides vital funding that enables me to continue to generate data while working toward an R award,” said Dr. Drake. “Transitions between grant funding are vulnerable times for physician-scientists. This level of institutional support speaks to OHSU’s commitment to its scientists.”
Dr. Drake’s research focuses on mechanisms of asthma, with a particular interest in how interactions between eosinophils – a type of disease-fighting white blood cell – and airway nerves, affect airway physiology. His recent studies found that eosinophils increased airway sensory nerve density in humans with asthma.
“Increased airway nerve density worsened airflow obstruction and increased patients’ sensitivity to inhaled environmental irritants,” said Dr. Drake. “This shows a clear link between eosinophils and nerve remodeling, which contributes to impaired lung function in asthma. Ultimately, we hope to use these findings to discover new therapies for asthma.”
Dr. Drake splits his time in lab with patient care in the medical ICU and pulmonary consult service. “Questions that arise when I see patients can be answered in the lab, and that’s incredibly exciting,” he said. “Having that clinical context gives research an extra level of meaning.”
Dr. Drake credits mentorship by David Jacoby, M.D., chair and professor of medicine, and Allison Fryer, Ph.D., professor of chemical physiology and biochemistry, for helping him with his OHSU career.
“I am so pleased that Dr. Matt Drake has received support from the Dean’s Physician Scientist Program,” said Dr. Jacoby. “Dr. Drake is the kind of spectacularly talented physician scientist that this program is designed to foster, and this support will allow him to continue to devote the lion’s share of his time to research as he transitions to independence.”
He added, “Dr. Drake’s recent paper in Science Translational Medicine analyzed bronchoscopic biopsies from 63 human subjects, and demonstrated the dramatic finding that the number of sensory nerves was doubled in the airways of patients with very severe asthma. This work also shows that eosinophils were responsible for the nerve growth, both in humans and in mice. He is now working on another human study to see whether the nerve changes are reversible with treatments targeting eosinophils. These studies are paradigm-shifting in our understanding of severe bronchospasm in this group of desperately ill patients and are likely to lead to new treatment strategies.”
Dr. Drake says he’s incredibly grateful for the people who have “mentored and supported me.” He pays it forward by mentoring fellows, residents, M.D. and graduate students.
For information, please visit the school’s Physician-Scientist Program web page (OHSU login required) on O2.