2012 Distinguished Innovator Award Recipients

The Lupus Research Institute (LRI) launched the first $1 million research grants given to lupus investigators by a private research organization in 2012. The LRI Distinguished Innovator Award was created to address the current lack of treatments in development that could arrest or reverse the disease. The first privately funded awards of this scale in lupus, it challenges the international scientific community to pursue highly promising new ideas on the fundamental causes of lupus that can lead to a cure.

The 2012 Distinguished Innovator recipients, Drs. Ann Marshak-Rothstein at University of Massachusetts Medical School and Greg Barton at University of California, Berkeley, independently zeroed in on one family of proteins called Toll-like receptors as key triggers of the body’s devastating autoimmune attack on itself that characterizes lupus. Because TLR proteins are essential in fighting any infection, how the body loses control over their activity is a fundamental question in immunology. Finding the causes of lupus, the prototype for autoimmune disease research, could have broad implications across a wide range of illnesses affecting millions.

Which Toll-like receptor is responsible?

Ann Marshak-Rothstein“Support from the LRI will enable us to extend our analysis of the cell components recognized by TLRs in mice to TLR activation in human cell populations, and allow us to identify those patients most likely to respond to therapies directed at blocking specific TLRs.”

Ann Marshak-Rothstein, PhD, University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester,  MA


Why Don’t TLRs Harm Healthy People?

Greg Barton"In the last few years, we have started to learn how the immune system regulates TLRs. The next challenge, and the focus of our work, is to determine whether differences in these processes can explain why certain people develop lupus while others do not.”

Greg Barton, PhD, University of California, Berkeley, San Francisco, CA