The AIM Center

Located in the southwestern United States, the Autophagy, Inflammation, and Metabolism Center of Biomedical Research Excellence (the AIM Center) is a locally, nationally, and internationally important center for the advancement of research on autophagy and its intersections with inflammation and metabolism in the disease process. The AIM Center is funded by NIH grant P20GM121176, and it endows the state of New Mexico and the surrounding region with a state-of-the-art biomedical center and an intellectual and technological hub for cutting-edge research. On a larger scale, the AIM Center promises to be a nationally important center for the advancement of research on autophagy, affording the nation a resource for the development of innovative approaches in treating a wide spectrum of diseases. Furthermore, given its support of exceptional junior and senior investigators through multi-year projects and pilots, the potential depth of its scientific output and its impact on the treatment of a multitude of diseases will grow this center into one of international significance.

Our Goal

Through its mentorship and financial support for junior investigators in achieving significant independent funding, scientific output and publications, and continuous replenishment of faculty ranks, the AIM center endeavors to contribute to the scientific progress in autophagy, both fundamental and applied/translational, and enhance output and funding in the areas of autophagy, inflammation, and metabolism. It will diligently strive to become a hub for national and international research in autophagy, enabling independent careers for junior faculty in the supportive, inviting, and cooperative environment for which the international autophagy community has always been recognized. The mechanism of funding provides options for three phases – each 5 years in length – and our goal is that the impact of the AIM Center on the local, national, and international scene will provide a place of continuous service and intellectual gathering and growth for the community over the next 15 years.

What Is Autophagy?

The word “autophagy” is derived from a Greek word that means “self-eating,” or “self-devouring,” and is a physiological process in all healthy plant, animal, and yeast cells that allows an organism to destroy those parts of the cell that are no longer necessary or functioning properly and eventually repurpose them in the formation of new cells. While scientists have been aware of autophagy for some time, only of late have they delved deeper into the specific catabolic mechanisms at play within the cells. Given recent discoveries of the highly medically relevant process of autophagy in potential treatments for devastating diseases such as cancer, obesity, diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, inflammatory bowel disease, and autoimmune diseases, this relatively novel area of research is coming into its prime as investigators from a variety of disciplines seek new paths of treatment, especially with diseases where roadblocks using traditional approaches impede further progress. Autophagy shows significant promise in informing new treatments and approaches.