Honoring his father’s legacy, Dr. Mark Terasaki, a graduate of the University of California, Los Angeles, and a cell biology researcher at the University of Connecticut, has funded a $150,000 grant to establish the Paul Terasaki Team Science Award in the Immunity, Inflammation, Infection, and Transplantation (I3T) research theme, under the auspices of the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA Seed Grant Program.
The inaugural Team Science grant was awarded to Dr. S. Samuel Weigt, Associate Professor in the UCLA Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine and Director of the Interstitial Lung Disease Center and Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation Care Center at UCLA. Dr. Weigt’s research was selected from 27 grant applications in a competition among the school’s research themes. Dr. Weigt will receive crucial research funding for one year, enabling him to advance his novel approach to monitoring lung function in lung transplant patients.
“My father was both a very productive researcher and the head of a successful company that made clinical reagents for transplantation. His particular skill was to combine basic research with the development of practical innovations in the treatment of human disease. When he sold his company, he expressed his desire to establish a long-term program supporting medical research,” said Dr. Mark Terasaki. “It is a challenge to identify promising research projects that follow in his spirit. I believe my father would find Dr. Weigt’s approach very interesting and important. Supporting the seed grant program and, specifically, Dr. Weigt’s work to help transplant patients, honors my father’s legacy.”
Dr. Paul Ichiro Terasaki, professor emeritus of surgery at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, was a pioneer in organ transplant medicine. He developed the test that became the international standard method for tissue typing, which assesses the compatibility of organ donors and recipients. A long-time supporter of the campus, in 2010 he gave $50 million to the Division of Life Sciences in the UCLA College of Letters and Science.
“Seed grants are profoundly important in promoting innovative thinking and groundbreaking discoveries. As the first donor-funded grant in this program, the Paul Terasaki Team Science Award will not only support investigations into ways to protect lung transplant patients against transplant rejection, but also will advance our I3T vision to harness the body’s immune system to revolutionize medicine and transform health."
- Steven Bensinger, VMD, PhD
Director of the I3T Research Theme
Associate Professor of Microbiology, Immunology, Molecular Genetics, Molecular and Medical Pharmacology
At the time, Dr. Terasaki's gift was the largest ever given to the UCLA College and was among the largest received by the university. In recognition of the gift, UCLA named the new Life Sciences Building the Terasaki Life Sciences Building. The gift also endowed the Paul I. Terasaki Chair in Surgery at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. Dr. Terasaki died January 25, 2016 at the age of 86.
UCLA investigators believe that the future of medicine is the immune system. Immunity keeps people alive by protecting the entire body—including the organs, blood system, lymph nodes, and skin—against inflammation; diseases, such as cancer; and infections, including those resulting from transplantation.
In lung transplantation—the focus of Dr. Weigt’s research—one of the greatest risks is rejection of the new lung by the immune system, called chronic lung allograft dysfunction, or CLAD. Dr. Weigt’s investigations involve the use of a new X-ray technology, 4-dimensional X-ray velocimetry (4DxV) that allows him to create a 4-D “movie” of the breathing lung, which he believes will help detect CLAD when it begins to affect a small portion of the transplanted lung.
“While we believe using 4DxV will help detect CLAD before it affects the whole lung and patients begin to have symptoms or show signs of disease, we first need to understand how CLAD changes the motion of the lung,” Dr. Weigt explained. “Plus, the 4DxV scan is quick, painless, and requires less radiation than a computed tomography scan.”
On receiving the grant Dr. Weigt said, “I am honored to have been selected, especially because the award is named in memory of Paul Terasaki, a renowned scientist whose work revolutionized the transplant field. This study is just the start of a complete transformation of how we monitor lung function in lung transplant patients and the award enables us to move the research forward.”
“Seed grants are profoundly important in promoting innovative thinking and groundbreaking discoveries,” said Dr. Steven Bensinger, Director of the I3T Research Theme and Associate Professor of Microbiology, Immunology, Molecular Genetics, Molecular and Medical Pharmacology. “As the first donor-funded grant in this program, the Paul Terasaki Team Science Award will not only support investigations into ways to protect lung transplant patients against transplant rejection, but also will advance our I3T vision to harness the body’s immune system to revolutionize medicine and transform health.”