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Alena Markmann, MD, PhD, Erin Steinbach, MD, PhD, Tessa Andermann, MD, PhD, and Peyton Thompson, MD, will receive support from the Physician Scientists Training Program at the UNC School of Medicine to cultivate their careers as translational clinician scientists.

As part of the Forward Together Strategic Plan, the UNC School of Medicine Physician Scientist Training Program (PSTP) supports a small number of clinicians committed to translating research findings to advance the practice of medicine in addition to providing clinical care and teaching. PSTP is a pipeline to recruit, train, and retain promising individuals and provide them with support and mentorship to cultivate their research programs.

The PSTP supports physician scientists at both the resident or fellowship level and the early stage faculty level. In the inaugural cycle of applications for this program, four individuals were inducted into this prestigious program.

“Physician scientists are essential for the translation of research into the clinic, and we are proud to develop a program that grows and supports this key population of scholars in the School of Medicine,” said Blossom Damania, PhD, School of Medicine Vice Dean for Research. “We are very proud of the interdisciplinary research in our school, and this program will help us continue to enhance an environment that is conducive to translational science.”

In this round, two awards were given at the resident/fellowship level to Alena Markmann, MS, MD, PhD, clinical fellow in the division of infectious diseases in the UNC Department of Medicine, and Erin Steinbach, MD, PhD, clinical fellow in allergy and immunology – a joint fellowship between the UNC Department of Medicine and the UNC Department of Pediatrics. Tessa Andermann, MD, MPH, assistant professor in the UNC Department of Medicine and Peyton Thompson, MD, MSCR, clinical assistant professor in the UNC Department of Pediatrics, received support at the early stage faculty level.

“The individuals were amongst a group of extremely talented nominees from seven different clinical departments and were selected by an advisory committee made up of physician scientists from ten clinical departments in the School of Medicine,” said Joseph (Alex) Duncan, MD, PhD, associate professor of medicine and director of the UNC School of Medicine Physician Scientists Training Program. “We are happy to support their translational careers and look forward to the impact of their future research success.”

Markmann’s project will focus on defining the molecular properties of different subsets of protective human antibodies that develop after Zika virus infection. The goal of this study is to identify viral targets of the human adaptive immune response that can be used to improve vaccine and therapeutic antibody design.

Steinbach is interested in understanding why impaired intestinal barrier integrity occurs in peanut allergy. as a PSTP Fellow, she will study how peanut proteins and the intestinal epithelium interact in normal health and peanut allergy. Understanding this process will lead to new targeted therapies for preventing severe allergic reactions to peanut.

Andermann will address the fact that multidrug-resistant organisms (MDROs) increasingly complicate the use of lifesaving hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HCT) in patients with hematologic malignancies. She will use novel sequencing technologies and bioinformatic tools to comprehensively identify and track the presence of antimicrobial resistance in the gut microbiomes of patients undergoing HCT in order to understand how resistance gene dynamics in the gut influence the risk of infection with MDROs.

Thompson will be applying comprehensive epidemiological, spatial, and modeling analyses to enhance knowledge of childhood Hepatitis B in Africa, to identify hotspots of disease, and to model spatially targeted vaccination strategies to avert future cases in African children.

More information about the Physician Scientist Training Program can be found in a previous Vital Signs article released by the School of Medicine Office of Research in January.