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Professor Utz is a physician scientist in immunology and rheumatology. He runs an active research lab that studies autoimmunity, infection, vaccines, and technology development. He is Associate Dean for Medical Student Research and formerly directed Stanford's MSTP. He is founder and Faculty Director of SIMR, one of the nation's largest high school research programs devoted to improving diversity of our nation's biosciences and physician scientist workforce.
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The Utz lab focuses on the immune system of patients with immunodeficiency disorders, infections, and autoimmune diseases such as systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), rheumatoid arthritis (RA), systemic sclerosis (scleroderma), myositis, primary biliary cirrhosis (PBC), Sjögren's disease, insulin dependent diabetes (type I diabetes or IDDM), multiple sclerosis (MS), inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), Castleman’s disease, and mixed connective tissue disease (MCTD).We develop bench-to-bedside technologies, including diagnostics and therapeutics, for human immune diseases. Our lab is also active in vaccine biology, both for inducing protective immunity to pathogens and for turning off immune responses in autoimmune diseases. We have recently pivoted efforts to study SARS-CoV-2, testing the hypothesis that the virus causes autoimmunity. Major goals of our studies are:(1) To test the hypothesis that the virus that causes COVID-19 causes autoimmunity to develop in a subset of patients. We are working with many labs and Stanford patients to screen for autoantibodies, then to determine why they develop and how this impacts disease.(2) To understand the mechanisms by which highly-conserved, diverse molecules and complexes such as histones and splicing particles are targeted by T and B lymphocytes, leading to organ-specific autoimmune disease.(3) To invent and validate novel technologies for high-throughput, multiplex proteomics. Examples of technologies we have pioneered include protein and peptide microarrays, reverse phase protein lysate microarrays, high throughput immunophenotyping using transcription, and most recently Epigenetic CyTOF (EpiTOF).(4) To take advantage of the information provided by autoantibody profiling methods to develop antigen-specific tolerizing therapies for common autoimmune diseases. Our work has led to human clinical trials of tolerizing vaccines in MS, and ongoing human trials in T1D.