Leading-edge Research

Top-ranked biomedical translational research

Students are empowered to conduct diverse projects and collaborate with recognized researchers on research capable of producing next generation solutions for health problems that face our world today.


Signature Programs

Our strategic plan for research involves a set of Signature Programs developed with the School’s research leaders to bridge School/University strengths and external funding opportunity.

At USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center, research scientists are spearheading studies on numerous fronts, such as novel therapeutic and technological advancements with particular focus on: stem cells; epigenetics and genetics; molecular-and imaging-guided therapy; computational biology; radiation therapy; molecular pathology; and early phase clinical trials.
We have a strong tradition of clinical research in infectious disease, including conducting adult and pediatric AIDS clinical trials, heading studies focused on the prevention of HIV and sexually transmitted diseases, and participating in the national Center for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC)-sponsored Tuberculosis Trials Consortium (TBTC). Augmenting this tradition is recently added expertise in the basic sciences of molecular immunology and virology.
Our Cardiovascular Thoracic Institute (CVTI) is on a strategic course to become an innovative incubator, early tester and training center for cutting-edge research, diagnostics and therapies. Research includes translational heart research and efforts into atherosclerosis, cardiovascular genomics and stem cell research, lung biology and pulmonary disease, nanotechnology related to air pollution injury and drug delivery and clinical outcomes in lung cancer and critical care medicine.
Research focused on brain development and neuroplasticity, neurogenetics, neurodegeneration and the complexities of circuit function. Leadership is placing priority attention on growing world-class translational research initiatives centering on psychiatric and neurological disorders including autism, depression, Parkinson’s disease, schizophrenia and stroke. Research is taking place in epigenetics; molecular, structural and functional neuroimaging, and neuroengineering.
Our research programs take systems biology, translational, and population approaches, coupling closely with prevention and clinical care. Research teams seek to understand childhood obesity and related conditions and develop novel strategies for prevention and treatment. The USC Childhood Obesity Research Center (CORC) is a collaborative effort between USC and Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, funded by two NIH center grants – one from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and one from the National Institute on Minority Health & Health Disparities (NIMHHD). The Center’s research team seeks to understand childhood obesity and its related conditions, to examine its relationship to minority health in Los Angeles County, and – working with the community – to develop novel strategies for prevention and treatment. The USC Research Center for Liver Diseases (RCLD) focuses its research base on four core themes: 1) viral hepatitis and hepatocellular carcinoma, 2), steatohepatitis and fibrosis, 3) liver injury (hepatotoxicity and mitochondrial pathobiology) and 4) repair, regenerative medicine and developmental biology. A second liver disease-focused center – the USC Research Center for Alcoholic Liver and Pancreatic Diseases (RCALPD) – has been supported by grants from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse & Alcoholism (NIAAA) since 1999. The Keck School also has exceptionally strong core teams in diabetes and kidney disease. Targeted faculty recruitment in these areas is ongoing – in some cases in partnership with Eli & Edythe Broad Center for Regenerative Medicine & Stem Cell Research at USC – with the goal to sustain excellence on the cutting edge of translational science and to create critical mass for new center initiatives.
Our premier clinical programs in emergency medicine, trauma, musculoskeletal and skin disease includes translational research for treatment of an inherited skin disease called epidermolysis bullosa, a new translational research program called the Eye Trauma & Visual Restoration Team collaborates with the USC Viterbi School of Engineering. We’re also collaborating with USC’s Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry in the area of craniofacial and bone biology. Partnership opportunities for trauma and stem cell research are being explored with Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and the Eli & Edythe Broad Center for Regenerative Medicine & Stem Cell Research at USC.
A number of collaborating investigators across USC—from an array of disciplines—are engaged in fundamental- and applied-imaging research. The Molecular Imaging Center (MIC), based at the Keck School, is engaged in both clinical- and basic-imaging studies that use sophisticated equipment. MIC investigators collaborate with scientists at the world-class USC Signal & Image Processing Institute at the Viterbi School of Engineering—a group that has made seminal contributions to the evolving discipline of computational imaging. Other teams—in particular, those from the Neuroscience Signature Program—are in search of such productive partnerships and resources to solve the mysteries of brain diseases.
The Keck School-based Los Angeles Basin Clinical & Translational Science Institute (LAB-CTSI) has made substantial interdisciplinary strides in translating basic science discoveries into improved patient care and enhanced community health in real-life settings. The Center for Human Studies (CHS) partners with the Clinical Investigations Support Office (CISO) of the USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center on research. The Institute for Comparative Effectiveness Research is designed to inform healthcare decisions by providing evidence on the effectiveness, benefits and harms of different patient treatment options.
A leader in the field, our strengths are disease prevention research and environmental health programs. Our award-winning, National Heart, Lung & Blood Institute and state-funded Environmental Health Center focus on air pollution research and collaborates with the USC Energy Institute to translate findings that inform public policy. The program is also key to University-wide research efforts on climate change. The Center for Community Participation is housed within the NIH-funded LAB-CTSI is actively engaged in LA area communities. A University-wide Institute for Global Health is carrying out trans-disciplinary research to ensure that evidence collected informs policies and practices.
The University holds a world-class position with its USC Center of Excellence in Genomics Science, one of only nine such NIH-funded centers nationwide. The USC Epigenome Center was the first such center in the world. It is taking a leadership role in a number of national and world consortia, including the National Cancer Institute-sponsored Cancer Genome Atlas Project, the National Institutes of Health-sponsored Roadmap Epigenomics Project, and the international Human Epigenome Project.
This interdisciplinary program combines leading-edge research into informatics methodologies, collaborative application of informatics techniques, and education/training of informaticists. The Viterbi School of Engineering’s Information Sciences Institute (ISI) has made seminal contributions through innovation in grid computing technology. ISI is leading the nation’s Biomedical Informatics Research Network (BIRN), a NIH-sponsored central clearing-house designed to make biomedical data widely accessible. Such a project resulted in the electronic sharing of diagnostic-imaging data among 40 national and international hospitals. The USC Center for High Performance Computing & Communications (HPCC) comprises a diverse mix of computing and data facilities. Among supercomputers in an academic setting, HPCC’s supercomputer cluster is the fifth fastest in the United States and 18th fastest in the world.
Committed to cross-disciplinary collaboration, the KSOM partnered with the USC Viterbi School of Engineering to launch Health, Technology & Engineering (HTE@USC), an educational initiative that merges the essentials of medicine with advanced engineering and scientific technologies create the most effective and efficient solutions to real-world healthcare problems. The National Science Foundation (NSF)-funded Biomimetic Microelectronics Systems (BMES) Engineering Research Center, another collaboration with the School of Engineering, focuses on developing methods to allow bi-directional communication with tissue, organs and systems, thus enabling implantable/portable microelectronic devices to treat presently incurable human diseases such as blindness and memory loss.
At the Broad CIRM Center, faculty members from the Eli & Edythe Broad Center are partnering with associate faculty based in departments across KSOM and the University to study stem cell-driven new medicine. Their findings have fundamentally advanced knowledge in stem cell research and have led to key technology innovations—including one selected by Science magazine as among the 10 top world breakthroughs of 2010. Working with the three “SC3” partners of the Southern California Stem Cell Scientific Collaboration, the translational component of this program has garnered two prestigious Disease Team Research Awards from the California Institute For Regenerative Medicine (CIRM)—the California Project To Cure Blindness and Stem Cell Therapy for AIDS.