Seven years ago, some former Pfizer scientists in St. Louis created Confluence Life Sciences to discover new drugs targeting inflammatory and immunological disorders and cancer. The team came up with a unique compound that was encouraging and caught the attention of some companies. In August, the founders sold Confluence Life Sciences for $100 million to Aclaris Therapeutics, located outside of Philadelphia.

One of those founders, Gabrile Mbalaviele, continues his work in St. Louis around bone inflammation at his laboratory at Washington University School of Medicine. Mbalaviele, an associate professor of medicine in the Division of Bone and Mineral Diseases in the John T. Milliken Department of Medicine, said inflammation is involved in many diseases and that inflammation in the body is both useful and harmful.

“Inflammation is important for the organisms of the body to defend against microbes and against pathogens, and it’s also important for tissue repair and tissue healing after injury,” Mbalaviele said.

“It’s a very, very important process. When it is out of a control is when there are instances of response that is bad for the organism.”

Mbalaviele said the best defenses against the harmful type of inflammation are the same actions for a healthier lifestyle – nutritious diet, regular exercise: “what we do and what we eat.”

Mbalaviele previously worked on inflammation for pharmaceutical maker Pfizer for 10 years in St. Louis. At Washington University, the work Mbalaviele is doing now is the same work he started – inflammation and how it leads to bone loss. He said it takes time and that progress is made incrementally.

“Hopefully, with time our research will lead to a development of a drug to circumvent, to treat bone loss,” he said. “I’m using my experience with drug discovery and my experience in industry to do translational research – finding how our knowledge can be applied to develop drugs.”

Mbalaviele plans to remain in St. Louis and at WUSTL for his work.

“We really enjoy and like very much what I do here at WashU, and Washington University is a great institution and a great institution to work,” he said.

“I had opportunity to be somewhere else but decided to stay here in St. Louis. I think that St. Louis is a great place to be.”

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