A man speaking at a podium
Arun Sanyal, M.D., welcomed a global audience of liver experts to the inaugural Stravitz-Sanyal Liver Symposium, including delegations from South America, India and China (photo by Allen Jones, Enterprise Marketing)

Inaugural symposium highlights liver research progress at VCU: An interview with Arun Sanyal

Sanyal, who directs the Stravitz-Sanyal Institute for Liver Disease and Metabolic Health, reflects on the institute’s first academic symposium and the path ahead for improving liver care.

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The Stravitz-Sanyal Institute for Liver Disease & Metabolic Health at Virginia Commonwealth University hosted its inaugural academic symposium, bringing together renowned researchers and partners from around the world to discuss new discoveries, collaborative initiatives and emerging strategies for advancing liver care. 

The symposium featured two days of sessions, with more than 25 speakers presenting on the history of liver-related research, current progress in the field, and visions for the future. The topics discussed ranged from innovations for tracking liver inflammation to evolving trends in caring for end-stage liver disease. Presentations were given by leading experts whose discoveries have directed the course of liver care in the past decades, representatives from organizations dedicated to accelerating the pace of research, as well as early career scientists developing cutting-edge solutions for today’s biggest challenges.

“Through this symposium, we've been able to showcase the variety of people who are working diligently to better understand and treat liver disease. Together, we have the potential to do amazing things that will be transformative for our patients,” says Arun J. Sanyal, M.D., director of the Stravitz-Sanyal Institute for Liver Disease and Metabolic Health. He talked with VCU News about the institute’s inaugural academic symposium and its role in shaping the future of liver care.

What were the overarching goals for the symposium?

Our aim was to celebrate the history of liver-related research at VCU and to showcase the breadth and depth of research being done by a diverse group of investigators at various points in their professional life spans. The event also served as an opportunity for our closest partners to highlight their discoveries and innovations with a focus on the collaborative aspects of their research with VCU.

Five people standing in front of banners that say \"VCU.\"
Patricia Sime, M.D.' R. Todd Stravitz, M.D.; Monica Rao; VCU President Michael Rao, Ph.D.; and Arun Sanyal, M.D. (photo by Allen Jones, Enterprise Marketing)

After two days of sessions on liver health, what were some of your biggest takeaways from the symposium?

It’s clear from this event that we have a truly globally connected network of investigators, with whom we are working closely to promote liver learning and patient-oriented liver research with the goal of improving liver health everywhere.

What are some of the biggest research priorities when it comes to liver disease and metabolic health?

Our focus is to identify poor metabolic health at its inception, put prevention strategies in place, and develop cost-efficient tools to enhance the health status of patients and the general population and reduce the burden of metabolically driven diseases in our communities.

So many of the speakers at the symposium shared personal stories about collaborating with you or being mentored by you. Could you speak on the importance of making these kinds of connections in science?

Our goal is to establish a platform that supports the next generation of liver care providers and investigators, not just in Virginia but throughout the world. Through these collaborations, we have taken what we have learned in Virginia and allowed that knowledge to be translated quickly to different regions of the world where our collaborating partners or mentees have leadership roles. This in turn means that discoveries and solutions generated at VCU are informing and improving patient care in many regions of the world.

VCU Stravitz-Sanyal Liver Institute Symposium Reflections

Looking ahead, what do you envision for the future of liver care? And how does the Stravitz-Sanyal Institute for Liver Disease & Metabolic Health fit in this future?

The future of liver health will include both community-based approaches for preventing liver disease but also precision tools to identify the unique drivers of diseases at an individual patient level. A major focus of our institute will be patient-oriented translation science that spans the spectrum of translational research, thereby turning our basic science discoveries into novel treatment strategies, particularly for diseases in which there are no therapies available currently.