Professor of Medicine and Epidemiology; Senior Scholar in the Center for Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics; LDI Senior Fellow and Associate Director of the IBD Program, University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine, Philadelphia, PA
Dr. James Lewis, a renowned clinician-scientist in the field of gastroenterology, has dedicated his 20-plus year career to optimizing medical therapies for IBD patients.
Dr. Lewis’ latest work focuses on exploring the influence of diet and gut microorganisms on the course of IBD to identify novel treatment strategies that aren’t based on systemic immunosuppression. This research builds on the seminal work he recently published on the relationship between diet and the composition of gut microbiota.
“One of the things my colleagues and I have worked on is the relationship between what we eat, the microorganisms that live in our intestines, and the inflammation that characterizes inflammatory bowel disease,” said Dr. Lewis, whose work may lead to diet-based treatments for Crohn’s and colitis.
“When we eat, we’re feeding ourselves but we’re also feeding all those microorganisms. We can potentially use what we eat to change the organisms that are there, or to change their behavior in a way that would offer a therapeutic benefit.”
Dr. Lewis says that Crohn’s and colitis still pose severe challenges, despite available therapies. “Until we have a cure,” he says, “I will continue to study ways to optimize current treatments and develop less toxic therapies—potentially including dietary changes—to help patients control their IBD.
“None of my research and educational efforts would have meaning if it were not for the potential to improve the lives of patients with IBD.”
While directing multiple IBD treatment studies, Dr. Lewis is also the innovator who led a small group of researchers to develop the original plans for the IBD Plexus information platform.
IBD Plexus is an innovative research and information exchange platform that will standardize data collection and sharing, allowing researchers to mine vast troves of patient data for new insights into Crohn’s and colitis. With IBD Plexus, Dr. Lewis is revolutionizing the way IBD information is gathered and shared among researchers and clinicians worldwide.
Since receiving the 2016 Sherman Prize for Excellence in Crohn’s and Colitis, Dr. Lewis has continued evolving a new tool he’s been developing called the IBD Smartform—a tool to systematically collect and track critical data for the care of patients with IBD. Recent work has focused on adapting the tool to allow patients to provide research-quality current symptom data prior to every office visit via an email and/or tablet-based form, allowing clinicians to focus their time on evaluating patients and less time entering data into a computer. The Sherman Prize has enabled him to increase the resources he put toward the initiative to take it further, faster.
Recently, Dr. Lewis reported having achieved critical milestones in development of the IBD Smartform.
“We’ve obtained user feedback, and the updated Smartform is now more comprehensive while also being more user-friendly.”
Dr. Lewis also plans to use remaining Prize funds to analyze biosamples for ongoing diet research that could help determine the effectiveness of certain organic and additive-free diets in the treatment of Crohn’s disease.
Professor of Psychiatry, Pediatrics and Medicine, UPMC & University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Pittsburgh, PARead her story