Fabio Cominelli’s contributions to groundbreaking research on gastrointestinal conditions, including Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, has helped alleviate pain and complications for tens of millions of people worldwide living with these disorders.
At Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, the internationally recognized gastroenterologist, physician and clinical scientist is also known for being an inspiring professor and dedicated mentor.
Now, Cominelli will be known by another title: Distinguished University Professor, the highest honor the university bestows on a member of its faculty.
Originally intending to become a cardiologist, Cominelli was swayed by the potential to make an outsized impact studying little-understood chronic digestive disorders.
“I went into medicine to help alleviate suffering and these diseases cause significant suffering to people,” said Cominelli, professor of medicine and professor of pathology at the medical school.
“These are fascinating diseases, and in many cases, we don’t know the causes and there are no cures,” added Cominelli, director of the Digestive Health Research Institute and chief of the Division of Gastroenterology and Liver Disease at the University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center. “But we can make life better for people.”
For nearly 40 years, Cominelli has studied the mechanisms of intestinal inflammation and provided a clearer picture of multiple ailments while helping change the approach to treating them.
With collaborators, he performed some of the original studies and made some of the initial discoveries of antibodies that block certain inflammatory mediators, known as cytokines.
The findings are considered major contributors to the creation of multiple FDA-approved drugs, including Antril, Remicade, Entyvio and others.
“Many advances in medicine begin with an astute physician who observes unique clinical manifestations in patients,” wrote Charles A. Dinarello, professor of medicine and immunology at the University of Colorado. “It’s the same when a physician sees the clinical application from a discovery in the laboratory. Fabio is the engine that drives several unique mechanisms for pioneering treatments.”
Over his career, Cominelli has also amassed an impressive publication record, authoring or co-authoring more than 180 scientific papers.
Since coming to Case Western Reserve 14 years ago, Cominelli has attracted more than $30 million in funding from the National Institutes of Health—with training and mentorship providing the basis of two of the prestigious grants. He has personally mentored or trained more than 150 basic and clinical scientists, with many establishing themselves as independent investigators, full professors and division chiefs.
“He has an exceptional capacity to maximize productivity and troubleshoot problems,” wrote Antonio Gasbarrini, dean of the faculty of Medicine Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore in Rome. “Fabio’s very demanding, but at the same time, is a great motivator.”
Cominelli has also facilitated interdisciplinary research and clinical treatment among Northeast Ohio’s healthcare institutions.
When nominating Cominelli, School of Medicine Dean Stan Gerson cited his influence in establishing the institution as a “world-class center for academic and translational research in GI disorders, a referral center for patients with IBD, and an international training center.”
Added Gerson: “He’s an outstanding leader.”