Gloria Yiu, MD, PhD Awarded A.P. Giannini Postdoctoral Research Fellowship & Leadership Award 

Dr. Yiu, a fourth-year rheumatology basic science STAR fellow, will receive three years of funding from the A.P. Giannini Foundation for her research exploring how the molecule RORγt affects T-cell development in the thymus. For almost two decades scientists have known that RORγt is a critical molecule for inflammatory Th17 cells that are bad actors in many of the autoimmune diseases that rheumatologists treat. A significant roadblock in testing the feasibility of RORγt inhibition in patients stems from studies in mice – where mice that lack RORγt are predisposed to developing cancers. But it remains unclear if what is seen in mice predicts what is seen in humans.

Gloria Yiu, MD, PhD

By utilizing a novel technology developed in Dr. Yiu’s mentor’s  lab – The Crooks Lab – at the UCLA Eli & Edyth Broad Center of Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Research, called the artificial thymic organoid (ATO), Dr. Yiu has preliminarily shown that RORγt may in fact play different roles in mouse versus human thymopoiesis. These results could impact the feasibility of testing RORγt inhibitors in human patients in the future. 

“I am excited to continue this work to understand scientific mechanisms that may impact human disease. For a physician scientist, like myself, investigating the questions that lie at the interface of science and medicine is how I advocate for my patients, and hope to improve their lives,” states Dr. Yiu.

Dr. Yiu joined the UCLA Division of Rheumatology fellowship in 2018 and is currently completing her Postdoctoral Training with Dr. Gay M. Crooks, who she describes as being deeply dedicated to growing the career of early scientists. The Crooks lab focuses on studying the fundamental mechanisms of T-cell biology including T-cell development and applications for immunotherapy.

About A.P. Giannini Fellowship & Leadership Award

The Fellowship and Leadership Award supports innovative research in the basic sciences and applied fields and trains fellows to become established investigators and to pursue scientific leadership positions in academia, industry, public and non-traditional career pathways. Research projects should advance the translation of biomedical science into treatments, preventions, and cures for human diseases.

The Foundation expects to fund 6 to 8 new fellowships in 2022 on a competitive, peer-review basis for a maximum of three years based on satisfactory performance.

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