Paul Utz, M.D.Professor of Medicine - Immunology & Rheumatology at Stanford University School of Medicine
Dr. Utz is a physician scientist who has dedicated his career to understanding and curing human rheumatic diseases, and to building a physician scientist pipeline that extends from high school students all the way to scientists in academia, industry, and government.
Dr. Utz was born and raised in Scranton, PA, the home of the TV show “The Office”, and is a first generation college graduate (King’s College in Wilkes-Barre, PA). He developed an interest in immunology research during a summer experience at Roswell Park Memorial Institute in Buffalo, NY, where he worked with Dr. Patricia Bealmear, the godmother of the boy in the plastic bubble (David Vetter), to develop safer bone marrow transplant methods. Although David did not survive his transplant a year prior, this transformative experience led Dr. Utz to Stanford Medical School. As a medical student in Jerry Crabtree’s lab, he co-discovered the NFAT transcription factor, the downstream molecule that is targeted by drugs like cyclosporine. He went on to complete a research residency in internal medicine and fellowship in clinical immunology at Brigham & Women’s Hospital at Harvard where he continued to pursue research in lupus and other connective diseases from 1991-1999.
Last year celebrated Dr. Utz’s 20th year as a Stanford Professor. During that time, his lab has developed cutting edge techniques to study rheumatic diseases. He has published over 150 high profile papers, and trained 65 scientists. He had an active clinical practice at Stanford until a few years ago when he chose to focus on research (although he still attends in clinic at the VA Hospital in Palo Alto). He is founder of the Stanford Institutes of Medical Research (SIMR) Summer Program. SIMR celebrated its 20th anniversary in August, and has trained almost 1,000 students to date. Another educational program for high school students Dr. Utz developed is the Stanford EXPLORE Lecture Series. This program covers the basic science fundamentals represented by various research areas in the Stanford School of Medicine. He directed Stanford’s MD/PhD training program for a decade. In 2018, Dr. Utz was tasked with educating not just MD/PhD students, but all physician scientist trainees at Stanford. He was appointed Associate Dean for Medical Student Research, and is leading efforts to promote physician scientist training nationally.
In 2018, Dr. Utz was appointed as Stanford Associate Dean for Medical Student Research to promote physician investigator development across the physician-scientist career continuum. Dr. Utz will continue to provide high-level oversight of SIMR and the MSTP while focusing on new efforts to create programs for M.D. students to have opportunities to build careers as investigators and leaders.
Dr. Utz directs a highly-successful lab at Stanford University School of Medicine. The lab focuses on the normal immune system and how it differs from the immune system of patients with immunodeficiency disorders, infections, and autoimmune diseases. Autoimmune diseases being studied include systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), rheumatoid arthritis (RA), systemic sclerosis (scleroderma), myositis, primary biliary cirrhosis (PBC), Sjögren's disease, insulin dependent diabetes (type I diabetes or IDDM), multiple sclerosis (MS), inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), and mixed connective tissue disease (MCTD). In addition to trying to better understand the pathogenic mechanisms involved in autoimmune and inflammatory diseases, the lab is interested in developing bench-to-bedside technologies, including diagnostics and therapeutics, for human immune diseases. Finally, the Utz lab is also active in vaccine biology, both for inducing protective immunity to pathogens and for turning off immune responses in autoimmune diseases. The Utz lab recently published collaborative studies describing 3 different antigen arrays used to characterize autoantibodies, anti-cytokine antibodies, and broad anti-viral IgG responses in hospitalized COVID-19 patients from 4 different centers.
In addition to research, Dr. Utz has been an innovator in education. In 2000, Dr. Utz founded Stanford Institutes of Medical Research (SIMR), one of the country’s largest and most respected immersive high school research programs. He has served as Associate Director, Co-Director, and Director of the Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP) at Stanford since 2008. Dr. Utz has won faculty teaching awards in the Department of Medicine and in the Immunology Interdepartmental Ph.D. Program. He has successfully trained over 60 scientists and 14 thesis students, and he has served on over 70 Ph.D. thesis committees.