October 01, 2013

Johann E. Gudjonsson, MD, PhD: Researcher, scientist, national parks explorer

Johann E. Gudjonsson, MD, PhD
What is the focus of your current research?

My research is focused on the immuno-pathogenetics of psoriasis — a chronic inflammatory disease of the skin found in about 2-3% of Americans. The work done in my laboratory has contributed to the identification of many of the genetic risk factors that predispose to psoriasis, and how these risk variants affect the biology and pathology of psoriasis.

Why is this interesting to you?

I had my first exposure to psoriasis as a medical student 18 years ago. What fascinated me early on was the process of translational research; how we obtain samples from patients, study them in detail to gain new insights into the pathogenesis of disease, and then turn that knowledge into new insights into the disease and sometimes more effective treatments. In those instances where you’re able to take this process full circle — from the patient to the lab, and then back again into the clinic — is incredibly exciting.

What are the practical implications for health care?

The majority of my research time is focused on studying the immunogenetics of psoriasis — linking the risk genes that we have identified. Our work can lead to the development of more effective treatments, and it holds the promise that with increased attention, and continuing progress, one day we might be able to cure this devastating disease.

When you’re not working, what do you do?

I greatly enjoy spending time with family. I’m somewhat of an omnivore when it comes to books, be it biography, historical or science fiction, and even graphic novels from time to time. I also love to travel, and one of the goals I made a few years back is to visit all the national parks. I’m still in the early steps of that goal to experience and see these places, which are amongst the most spectacular places.

What are you currently reading?

I’m reading Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged. It’s a bit different from what I had anticipated, but a fun read, very interesting and quite intriguing.

What keeps you up at night?

My 2-year-old daughter, Finley — she always seems to wake up when it’s bedtime for me and my wife, Thy Thy.

What is one destination you dream of but haven’t gotten to yet?

I’ve got to say “Socotra,” a small archipelago of four islands in the Indian Ocean and described by many as the most alien-looking place on Earth. It’s one of the world’s jewels of biodiversity analogous to the Galapagos Islands.

What is your guilty pleasure?

I’d have to say it is playing computer games. I don’t have much time for it anymore, but it is fun!