Newswise — Nationally recognized for his work studying a novel inflammatory disorder known as VEXAS, David B. Beck, MD, PhD, has joined the Division of Rheumatology at NYU Langone.
Dr. Beck previously worked as a postdoctoral fellow and clinical scholar at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). At NYU Langone, he has dual appointments as an assistant professor in the Department of Medicine and the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Pharmacology, and is a member of the Center for Human Genetics and Genomics and the Division of Rheumatology.
During his training, Dr. Beck and colleagues identified a novel inflammatory disorder they called vacuoles, E1 enzyme, X-linked, autoinflammatory and somatic syndrome, or VEXAS. Patients with VEXAS present with blood clots, recurrent fevers, chondritis, skin inflammation, and pulmonary abnormalities, and have abnormal vacuoles in the myeloid cells. Researchers observed that the disorder did not occur until adulthood, and has primarily been found in men. One reason for this could be that the gene is located on the X chromosome. Men have only one X chromosome, while women have two.
The journey to discover VEXAS was atypical. Whereas most new diseases are identified by looking at symptoms and analyzing patients’ genes to determine a genetic cause, Dr. Beck and his team started by looking at a pathway of genes linked to inflammation and analyzed those genes across 2,500 patients with undiagnosed illnesses in an NIH database. Using this approach led the researchers to find a mutation in a gene called UBA1, which revealed the existence of this new inflammatory genetic disorder with varied clinical manifestations. Dr. Beck and colleagues at the NIH published their VEXAS findings in the New England Journal of Medicine in October 2020.
In addition to his clinical work, Dr. Beck will launch the Center for Autoimmune and Autoinflammatory Genetic Diseases at NYU Langone, a collaborative program focused on identifying new genetic disorders in people with rheumatic and autoimmune diseases. Often when physicians cannot give an exact diagnosis, a more general approach is used to treat symptoms, which can lead to worse outcomes. Within the new center, Dr. Beck and his team will use similar approaches to research other undiagnosed inflammatory disorders and develop new insights and potential therapies for treatments, thus improving patient outcomes and quality of life.
“Dr. Beck’s work on these rare and often poorly understood diseases will help physicians improve disease assessment, and provide the most accurate treatments for patients,” says Jill P. Buyon, MD, the Sir Deryck and Lady Va Maughan Professor of Rheumatology and director of NYU Langone’s Division of Rheumatology. “We are honored to have him join our faculty and eagerly look ahead to witnessing his continued success.”
About Dr. Beck
An alumnus of Brown University, Dr. Beck earned his medical degree and PhD in biochemistry from NYU School of Medicine. He went on to complete his residency in internal medicine at Columbia University and fellowship in clinical genetics with the Medical Genetics and Genomics Residency Program at the NIH.
Dr. Beck has authored several important studies in high-impact journals and is the recipient of several honors and awards, including the National Human Genome Research Institute Intramural Research Award and the Burroughs Wellcome Fund Career Award for Medical Scientists. Dr. Beck has spoken about his research at several national seminars, including the American Society for Human Genetics annual meeting, the American College of Rheumatology, and American Society of Hematology.
“I am excited to join such an incredible and accomplished group of clinicians and researchers at NYU Langone and to further our understanding of VEXAS and other genetically linked disorders,” says Dr. Beck. “With the talent and resources at NYU Langone, I hope to grow my research so we can better identify diseases and treat patients who otherwise would have their illnesses remain obscured and unknown to them.”