Dr. Carl Ware has joined Sanford-Burnham’s faculty as director of the Infectious and Inflammatory Disease Center (IIDC). Although this is the first time Dr. Ware has been employed at Sanford-Burnham, his roots with the Institute go back to 1996. That’s when he, Dr. John Reed, Dr. Guy Salvesen, and others began a collaborative project to study apoptosis and cell death. That same year, Dr. Ware joined the La Jolla Institute for Allergy and Immunology, where he led the Division of Molecular Immunology. Over the years, he has maintained strong ties with Sanford-Burnham.Dr. Ware’s research focuses on the fundamental pathways that control cytokines, a family of proteins involved in immune signaling. One group of cytokines, called tumor necrosis factors or TNF, are part of an intricate communication network between immune system cells.
“They’re complicated circuits,” says Dr. Ware. “There are more than two dozen proteins in this family and an equal number of receptors. The pathways involve hundreds of proteins. In infectious disease, these pathways are amplified in a very dramatic fashion. In autoimmune disease the pathways escape regulatory control entirely. Something just goes haywire. However, with any circuit, theoretically, you can rewire around it.”
Dr. Ware’s research on cytokines has led to two drugs now in clinical trials and development. He is also interested in how pathogens regulate the human immune system to gain a competitive advantage. He studies cytomegalovirus, a member of the herpes virus family, which has more than 200 genes devoted to modulating the host immune system.
“These viruses are very effective at getting into you and very efficient at staying in, though they stimulate a very robust immune response,” says Dr. Ware. “They’re a great tool to illuminate the secrets of the immune system.”
As director of IIDC, Dr. Ware intends to build up the inflammatory side to focus more on immunology and use that fundamental science to support ongoing work in infectious diseases, inflammation, cancer and neurobiology. He also wants to place even more emphasis on moving laboratory discoveries forward. “There are a number of scientists here whose work is really on the verge of being translated into the clinic. I want to promote that as much as possible.”
Dr. Ware is also interested in attracting pharmaceutical and biotech companies to help solve the riddles of these very complex diseases.
“We are still puzzled by how two different people who both have rheumatoid arthritis can respond completely differently to treatment. We need to understand the genetic factors better and develop ways to personalize care.”