The International Biomedical Research Alliance’s Outstanding Recent Graduate Award was created to recognize the noteworthy and distinctive achievements of an individual who has graduated from the NIH Oxford-Cambridge Scholars Program within the last two years. The honoree embodies the values of scientific innovation and collaboration leading to seminal biomedical discoveries at an early stage in their career. The 2021 Outstanding Recent Graduate Award was bestowed upon Zachary (Zach) Fitzpatrick during the 2021 NIH Global Doctoral Partnerships Research Workshop July 13-15, 2021.
Zach is currently a Senior Scientist at Spark Therapeutics, a Philadelphia-based gene therapy company dedicated to harnessing the therapeutic potential of viral vector-mediated gene transfer to treat debilitating hereditary diseases. He is drawing on his background in gene therapy development and neuroimmunology to help support the development of gene transfer-based biologics for central nervous system disorders.
His work, published in Nature in the autumn of last year, described a previously unappreciated link between the gut and meningeal humoral immunity, showing that IgA+ B cells and plasma cells are educated in the intestine but re-locate to the wall of the dural venous sinuses, providing a defensive shield at this internal barrier that is critical to prevent the spread of pathogens from the blood into the brain. “It was a huge finding to see such a similarity between IgA clones in the gut and the brain,” said Zach during an interview with Gates Cambridge, adding that it could unlock new routes for understanding neuroinflammatory pathways and their role in diseases like multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s where research has already shown a link to the gut.
Zach was nominated by his UK mentor and NIH Oxford-Cambridge Scholars Program Director at the University of Cambridge, Prof. Menna Clatworthy. Prof. Clatworthy noted that “Altogether, Zach’s work makes a remarkable contribution to this field, and I feel recognition with these awards would be entirely appropriate.”
“It’s an absolute honor to have received the Outstanding Recent Graduate Award from the International Biomedical Research Alliance, I’m extremely grateful to have received support from the OxCam program to pursue graduate studies at two world-class research institutions – the University of Cambridge and the NIH – and from my mentors and peers,” Zach stated.
A graduate of the Louisiana State University, Zach will receive his Ph.D. from the University of Cambridge in 2021 as a Gates Cambridge Scholar in the prestigious NIH Oxford-Cambridge Scholars Program under Dr. Dorian McGavern (NIH/NINDS) and Prof. Menna Clatworthy (University of Cambridge). Zach hopes to develop immunomodulatory and gene-based therapies to counter neurodegenerative diseases.