The Young Investigator Draft is the result of Uplifting Athletes’ ongoing commitment to cultivate resources that accelerate scientific advancements for rare disease treatments and potential cures while facilitating the next generation of rare disease researchers.
These Young Investigators will pursue rare disease research in one of five different areas: rare cancers, rare autoimmune and immunological disorders, rare blood disorders, rare genetic disorders and rare muscular and neurological disorders.
To learn more about the Young Investigator Draft and to purchase tickets click here
Researcher: Dr. David C. Fajgenbaum
Category: Rare autoimmune and immunological disorders
Education: BS in human sciences from Georgetown University, MS in public health from Oxford University, MD from University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine and MBA in health care management from University of Pennsylvania.
Research: Dr. Fajgenbaum leads the Castleman Research Program at Penn as primary investigator of 18 translational research studies, including an international natural history study and the first-ever NIH R01 grant. His published research has changed the way idiopathic multicentric Castleman disease is researched and treated. He is also a patient himself, who is in his longest remission ever thanks to a precision treatment that he identified, which had never been used before for Castleman disease.
In Their Words: “I think at the end of the day, if you boil me down, I am somebody who gets something done. I spend a lot of time thinking about what I’m going to do, but I don’t spend a lot of time talking about what I’m going to do. I’m a doer and I want to get things done. There are people counting on me, patients need answers from me and I need to provide them. I need to stay on the horse and keep pushing.” – Dr. David Fajgenbaum
During his third year of medical school in 2010, Fajgenbaum, who was studying to become an oncologist, became extremely ill battling his rare disorder, spent five months in the hospital and reached the point of having his last rites read.
If that wasn’t enough to inspire and motivate the brilliant doctor, four more near-fatal relapses gave Fajgenbaum all the motivation required to carve out his own unique Castleman disease research path.
Fajgenbaum, who along with his wife Caitlin are expecting their first child later this month, co-founded the Castleman Disease Collaborative Network in 2012, through which he has spearheaded the “Collaborative Network Approach” to research. His particular sub-type of Castleman disease, idiopathic multicentric, involves the immune system attacking and shutting down the body’s vital organs. It affects people of all ages and the sub-type iMCD has only a 50 percent five-year survival rate.
“What keeps me working hard is the realization that, after many years in and out of the hospital and nearly dying, if I want something to happen, and I want solutions and cures for Castleman disease, I can’t wait and hope somebody else finds the answers,” Fajgenbaum said. “If I want something done, I need to do it myself. That’s what keeping me pushing hard and going forward. If I don’t jump into action that hope for solutions and cures will not turn into reality.”