Human complex diseases (e.g., asthma, cancer, cardiovascular and metabolic disorders, neuro-degenerative and neuro-developmental diseases) are major biomedical challenges, because they are common but difficult to decipher. The complexity of these diseases likely reflects intricate interactions among genetic, environmental and developmental factors that modify disease susceptibility and severity.
Understanding complex diseases is urgent, because these conditions impose a burden on society. Yet, this goal cannot be achieved by isolated research disciplines. Rather, it requires a novel paradigm that successfully integrates research across multiple fields. The Arizona Center for the Biology of Complex Diseases (ABCD), a Division of the Arizona Research Laboratories, was launched to implement such a paradigm and support the creation of a community of basic and translational scientists interested in complex diseases.
The ABCD fulfills its mission through several mechanisms. Funds are provided to support innovative, inter-disciplinary pilot projects exploring complex disease-related themes. Advanced graduate fellowships are offered to outstanding students engaged in complex disease research. Special seminars feature internationally renowned scientists at the forefront of the complex disease field. Events are organized to connect researchers interested in complex diseases. Last but not least, the ABCD sponsors a yearly graduate colloquium (Problems in Complex Disease Biology) that is open to all faculty and students campus-wide. The Colloquium features speakers and themes at the cutting edge of environmental, developmental and evolutionary biology, immunology, epigenetics, genetics and functional genomics in human and animal models. The discussion seeks to identify the mechanistic architecture of complex diseases as a group by focusing on the biological components that are shared by seemingly distinct diseases (for instance, asthma, neurodegenerative and cardiovascular diseases). The goal of the Colloquium is to provide a platform that catalyzes expert discussions on foundational topics, thereby fostering the emergence of a new experimental and conceptual paradigm in complex disease biology.