Todd M. Brusko, associate professor for UF Department of Pathology, Immunology and Laboratory Medicine, has been named Scientific Director of the UF Diabetes Institute (UFDI).
Dr. Brusko joins the senior leadership team of the UFDI under its Director, Mark Atkinson, PhD, Pediatric Medical Director, Desmond Schatz, MD, and Adult Medical Director, Kenneth Cusi, MD. Dr. Brusko joined the University of Florida faculty in 2010 following a post-doctoral fellowship at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) in the laboratory of Jeffrey Bluestone, Ph.D. During that time, Dr. Brusko was involved in the early developmental work leading to the first clinical trial employing regulatory T cells as a potential treatment for type 1 diabetes (T1D). Subsequently, he has received Innovative and Career Development Awards from the JDRF, which springboarded his efforts as an independent investigator at UF to further advance cellular and immunomodulatory therapies for the treatment of T1D. Now, with nearly $11M in direct extramural funding as a principal investigator, Dr. Brusko’s lab is on the forefront of cellular engineering, and genotype-phenotype studies in T1D using high-dimensional, single-cell profiling methods.
In this new appointment, Dr. Brusko will oversee key efforts toward:
- Building research and equipment infrastructure to ensure cutting-edge research within the UFDI,
- Expansion of research partnerships between UFDI faculty and industry,
- Recruitment of faculty to expand research depth and breadth in key areas related to the UFDI mission,
- Communication of UFDI research discoveries with the scientific community and the public,
- Coordination of joint grant submissions by UFDI faculty,
- Supporting the scientific training of students, post-doctoral fellows, and staff,
- Facilitating the transition of basic “bench” research into clinical interventions to benefit patients.
The research interests of Dr. Brusko’s academic lab are centrally themed around understanding the mechanisms by which the immune system maintains a state of control, often referred to as immunological tolerance. A portion of his lab is dedicated to understanding how genetic risk variants and age influence this process, as well as identifying pathway defects in individuals who develop autoimmune diseases. These studies have focused primarily on genes impacting key checkpoints in T cell activation, including T cell receptor (TCR) signaling, co-stimulation, and the IL-2 signaling pathway.
Dr. Brusko currently heads the advanced cytometry and cell sorting core for the JDRF-sponsored Network for Pancreatic Organ donors with Diabetes (nPOD) program. His laboratory is involved a number of ongoing team science initiatives including an NIH-NIAID P01 grant, NIH Director’s Initiative – Human BioMolecular Atlas Program (HuBMAP), Brehm Coalition, and the JDRF biomarker working group and autoimmunity working group.
A major effort of Dr. Brusko’s lab involves profiling the “normal” developing human immune system, in the Human Atlas of Neonatal Development and Early Life – Pancreas/Immunity (HANDEL-P/I) program and the Adaptive Immune Receptor Repertoire Sequencing (AIRRseq) program supported by The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust (HCT). In addition, as an investigator for the NIH-supported HuBMAP program, Dr. Brusko contributes to efforts to develop three-dimensional (3D) cellular maps of human immune organs (thymus, lymph nodes, and spleen) from individuals of all ages. The efforts of his laboratory focusing on normal human immunity are laying the foundation for subsequent studies mapping pathogenic immune development that leads to disease, including T1D.
Finally, even beyond T1D, the UFDI has been called upon by the NIH NIAID to aid in the so called “immune phenotyping” of patients afflicted with COVID-19. Indeed, just this past week, UF was named one of an elite group of 15 institutions, nationwide, to be considered immune profiling centers. It is through the work of Dr. Brusko, as well as the many other collaborators and collaborative networks at UF that such inclusion became possible.
“Immunology is entering an exciting time right now and intersecting with systems biology and precision medicine genomics to understand both health and disease,” Brusko said. “I am excited to help lead the UFDI scientific direction to capitalize on our clinical resources and research strengths in order to facilitate the development of novel treatment strategies. Inflammation is an essential component of all disease pathologies. What we learn in immunology has the potential to then impact a wide variety of other diseases impacting human health”, concludes Brusko.
In announcing the new appointment, Mark Atkinson, Ph.D., Director of the UF Diabetes Institute, noted Dr. Brusko’s strengths and talents as a leader that make him highly qualified for the position. “Todd has a collegial vision for building and strengthening the scientific program of the Institute,” Atkinson said. He would be the envy of any institution in the U.S. to have as a faculty member focused on immunology and we consider ourselves fortunate to have someone of his acumen.
Please join us in congratulating Dr. Brusko and welcoming him to this new role at the University of Florida Diabetes Institute!
Mark A. Atkinson, Ph.D.
UF Diabetes Institute