Lupus Research Institute Propels Discovery with Wide Range of New Grants

From the innovative design of tiny drug delivery “magic bullets” to a pioneering hunt for immune system therapies, the Lupus Research Institute’s (LRI) latest round of Novel Research Grants promises to break crucial new ground in the urgent search for solutions to lupus, a chronic and often devastating autoimmune disease.

The $2.9 million in awards to 11 investigators nationwide brings the LRI’s total investment for Novel Research Grants to $26 million since the Institute was founded by friends and families of people with lupus in 2000.

LRI-funded scientists have made rapid and powerful breakthroughs, in just a few years profoundly reshaping scientific knowledge of an illness suffered by more than 1.5 million Americans and millions more worldwide.

“The LRI’s strategy of funding only novel scientific ideas in lupus has more than demonstrated its power,” said William E. Paul, MD, chief of the Laboratory of Immunology at NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, and chairman of the LRI’s Scientific Advisory Board.

Pioneering Discovery with a Broad Scope of Studies

Winners of the highly competitive 3-year awards chosen through a rigorous peer review selection process, include basic scientists, clinicians, and experts from a variety of medical disciplines.

From a researcher pursuing the design of the “magic bullets”—an assistant professor of Biomedical Engineering & Chemical Engineering at Yale University—to a University of Florida clinician now able to pursue an entirely new approach to suppressing the overactive immune system of lupus by using adult stem cells, the grants probe for answers to lupus in myriad ways.

A scientist at the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research in Massachusetts, for example, will now work to develop a new way to prevent or reduce the output of lupus-causing auto-antibodies by generating clues to the biology of a “Toll-like receptor” protein deemed critical to activating immune system cell responses.

Launching Innovative Studies in ‘Human Lupus Biology’

In the drive to fill a significant gap in lupus research, the LRI is also now funding work that will translate basic research findings to the human disease, harnessing emerging technologies to analyze human tissue and spur the development of new therapies.

“There is a real need in lupus research is creative work in human lupus biology,” said Peter E. Lipsky, MD, previous chief of the Autoimmunity Branch of the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS). “This is one of the most important areas to pursue. And now, for the first time, we have the tools to ask incisive questions and make new insights directly in the human lupus immune system.”

And so a University of Washington pediatrician will now able to search for new immune-modulating therapies in tissue samples from a group of children with lupus, and a Temple University physician in Philadelphia will advance insight in lupus kidney failure in men specifically by studying tissue, urine, and serum biopsies taken from patients of both genders.

Individual researchers as well as powerful consortiums of technology and talent applied for ‘Human Lupus Biology’ awards. One consortium of three investigators at the University of Alabama at Birmingham will use human material from healthy people to determine whether alterations in a particular gene might lead to lupus.

Another consortium in Human Lupus Biology unites researchers at UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas and the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx to evaluate the power of five highly promising urine biomarkers (“early markers”) to predict the onset and progression of lupus nephritis in humans.

New LRI Grant Recipients:

Roberto Caricchio, MD
Temple University, Philadelphia, PA
Role of Poly(ADP-ribose)Polymerase (PARP)-1 in Male Lupus Nephritis

Edward Chan, PhD
University of Florida, Gainesville, FL
miRNA Biomarkers Affecting the Interferon Pathway in SLE

Tarek Fahmy, PhD
Yale University School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, New Haven, CT
Combination Therapy with Nanoparticles Targeting Pathogenic T Cells

Veronika Groh-Spies, MD
Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Seattle, WA
A Novel CD4 T Cell Population Regulates Disease Activity in Pediatric Lupus

Hidde Ploegh, PhD
Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research, Cambridge, MA
A Critical Role of Lysosomal Proteases in the TLR9 Response

Westley Reeves, MD
University of Florida, Gainesville, FL
Generation of Regulatory T Cells in Lupus Using Mesenchymal Stem Cells

Consortia Grants:

Chandra Mohan, MD, PhD
UT Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, TX
Chaim Putterman, MD
Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, NY
Urine Biomarkers in Lupus Nephritis

Daniel Bullard, PhD
Jeffrey Edberg, PhD
Alexander Szalai, PhD
University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham, AL
Biological Mechanisms of ITGAM variants for genetic risk in SLE


Homepage photo credit: National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases