Baylor College of Medicine is part of the Digestive Diseases Research Core Center (DDC), a National Institutes of Health-funded program intended to bring together investigators from several institutions to enhance the effectiveness of existing research and to extend its focus and efficacy. In a commitment to continue the impactful work being done through the center, the NIH has awarded the Baylor program and its investigators a $3.67 million 5-year renewal grant.

The award, the NIH Silvio O. Conte Digestive Diseases Research Core Center (P30) Grant, will ensure the continuity and growth of the Texas Medical Center Digestive Diseases Center (TMC DDC) continues, facilitating cutting-edge digestive diseases research, promoting translational collaborative research between basic and clinical areas, developing new projects, nurturing new investigators and providing gastrointestinal educational activities.

“The TMC Digestive Diseases Center is uniquely placed in a city where major scientific and clinical discoveries are happening every day, creating a collaborative platform to bring people who provide specialized services together to advance science,” said Dr. Hashem B. El-Serag, professor and chair of medicine-gastroenterology at Baylor and principal investigator on the award. Dr. Douglas Burrin, professor of pediatrics at Baylor, is the co- principal investigator.

Established in 2001 by Dr. Mary Estes, now a distinguished service professor of virology and microbiology at Baylor, the TMC DDC serves basic and clinical scientists at institutions within the Texas Medical Center, including Baylor College of Medicine, The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston and the MD Anderson Cancer Center. The TMC center is one of only 18 NIH-funded Digestive Diseases Research Core Centers in the country and the only center of its kind in the southeast United States.

The overall theme of the TMC DDC is gastrointestinal infection and injury. The DDC has particular strengths in microbiome and metagenomics studies, basic molecular virology and microbiology, integrative biology, including enteroids and organoids, epidemiology and outcomes research. 

“One of the exciting offerings of the center is a new core, called Gastrointestinal Experimental Model Systems (GEMS), in which miniature human organs, or organoids, are cultured from samples obtained from healthy or diseased living organs and are produced to test the effects of different infections and related drugs,” added Dr. El-Serag, who also is a member of the Dan L Duncan Comprehensive Cancer Center at Baylor.

On an institutional level, by supporting research conducted in the TMC DDC, the grant will allow the Department of Medicine and gastroenterology section to serve the local Texas population suffering from various digestive ailments, including ulcer disease, hepatitis C and B, non-alcoholic fatty liver, inflammatory and irritable bowel diseases.