Lupus Research Institute Awards $1-Million Grants to Discover What Causes Lupus

NEW YORK, NY – October 30, 2014. The Lupus Research Institute (LRI) announced recipients of its 2014 Distinguished Innovator Awards with three cutting-edge projects that tackle the underlying causes of the disease. The world’s largest private grants in novel lupus research, the LRI Distinguished Innovator Awards support major studies for up to $1 million that can advance the search for prevention, treatment and a cure.

The 2014 award recipients are Zhijian ‘James’ Chen, Ph.D., Professor, UT Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, TX; Douglas Green, Ph.D., Immunology Chair, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Memphis, TN (below left); and Randolph J. Noelle, Ph.D., Professor of Microbiology and Immunology, Trustees of Dartmouth College (below right).  Each has made recent major breakthroughs in basic immunology that have implications for understanding and treating a broad range of diseases. But thanks to their LRI grants, they will focus first on applying those novel discoveries to lupus.


Three Promising Directions
Dr. Chen has discovered an essential new process that alerts the immune system to viruses by sensing the presence of ‘foreign DNA within cells’. He will explore his hypothesis that this pathway malfunctions in lupus, causing the immune system to attack its own DNA.

Dr. Green’s team will investigate whether a new pathway he has discovered that safely disposes of dead cells goes awry in lupus, causing the immune system to attack the body’s cells and tissues.

The project led by Dr. Noelle is exploring whether a novel ‘checkpoint’ molecule that limits the activity of the immune system could be used to bring the overactive lupus immune system back under control.

World-leading immunologist William Paul, M.D., LRI Scientific Advisory Board Chairman and National Academy of Sciences member described the three projects as wholly original with very real potential to propel developments that could improve treatment and prevent disease progression.  “While our three new Distinguished Innovators are specialists in immunology, Drs. Chen, Green and Noelle are approaching the fundamental causes of lupus from highly creative and potentially transformative perspectives.”

“As the name implies, the Distinguished Innovator Awards afford preeminent and visionary researchers the means to pursue highly creative, pioneering theories backed by sound science,” said Margaret Dowd, President and CEO. “This award complements LRI’s overarching strategy to lead scientific innovation from fundamental novel research through translational and clinical research and clinical trials.”