Since 2007, molecular and cellular neuroscientists have made rapid inroads into the study of itch that has long been ignored and overshadowed by pain researchers. Encouraged by the momentum of advances in the itch field, we realized that a center dedicated to itch studies at an institutional level would serve as one of the best mechanisms to strengthen basic and translational research and, in particular, to drive mechanistic translational research to a forefront. The center would reinforce collaborations amongst investigators across disciplines, promote informational exchange, and enhance the visibility of itch research.
To promote innovative interdisciplinary and inter-departmental translational research, Washington University launched the BioMed 21 initiative with the goal of establishing new Interdisciplinary Research Centers (IRCs). The initiative for creating Center for the Study of Itch (CSI) as an IRC has been developed by the Department of Anesthesiology and the Division of Dermatology, Department of Medicine. The proposal was unanimously endorsed and approved by the Research Academic Committee and ratified by the Executive Faculty in 2010. In March of 2011, the establishment of the CSI, the first of its kind in the world, was formally announced. Dr. Zhou-Feng Chen is the founding director of CSI, and Dr. Lynn Cornelius serves as a co-director of CSI.