NIH awards $51 million to fight autoimmune diseases

September 25, 2003

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has awarded nine 5-year grants totaling approximately $51 million to expand research on autoimmune diseases, conditions where the body turns on itself.

The nine centers that make up the Autoimmunity Centers of Excellence (ACE) program will conduct clinical trials and basic research on new immune-based therapies for autoimmune diseases. This program will enhance interactions between scientists and clinicians in order to accelerate the translation of research findings into medical applications.

Collectively, autoimmune diseases afflict between 14 and 22 million Americans. "The expansion of this program from four to nine centers demonstrates NIH's strong commitment to this important public health concern," says Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., director, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), the lead institution funding this initiative. "This coordinated approach incorporates key recommendations of the NIH Autoimmune Diseases Research Plan ( and will ensure progress in identifying new and highly effective therapies for autoimmune diseases."

Autoimmune diseases are caused by the misdirection of an immune response toward the body's own tissues. The principal role of the immune system is to defend against infection. The body has safeguards to prevent the immune system from attacking its own tissues, but when these safeguards are breached, an autoimmune disease can result.

Medical science has identified more than 80 clinically distinct autoimmune diseases, including systemic lupus erythematosus, type 1 diabetes, severe lupus nephritis, Sjogren's syndrome and multiple sclerosis. Those suffering with autoimmune diseases often endure loss of function, disability, hospitalizations, outpatient visits, decreased productivity and impaired quality of life.

The ACE expansion will enable a wider range of autoimmune diseases to be studied as it facilitates collaboration and draws on the expertise of a larger network of scientists and physicians.

The ACEs and principal investigators are

Albert Einstein College of Medicine (New York, NY)--Betty Diamond, M.D.
Brigham and Women's Hospital (Boston, MA--Samia Khoury, M.D.
Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh--Massimo Trucco, M.D.
Columbia University (New York, NY)--Leonard Chess, M.D.
Duke University (Durham, NC)--Eugene W. St. Clair, M.D.
University of Alabama at Birmingham--Robert Carter, M.D.
University of California at San Francisco--David Wofsy, M.D.
University of Colorado (Denver, CO)--Brian Kotzin, M. D.
University of Rochester (Rochester, NY)--Ignacio Sanz, M.D.
The Department of Health and Human Services, the parent agency of NIH, announced the comprehensive Autoimmune Diseases Research Plan in January 2003 ( Highlights of the plan include support of 1) studies to more accurately determine the burden of autoimmune diseases in the United States and the number of deaths that result from them; 2) research to identify the genetic and environmental factors that lead to autoimmune diseases; 3) a centralized clinical research network that can conduct multi-institutional clinical trials of potential treatments; and 4) new training opportunities for professionals and new public education campaigns.

The ACE program is a cooperative effort of NIAID, the NIH Office of Research on Women's Health, and the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, all of which are components of the NIH, an agency of the Department of Health and Human Services. NIAID supports research to advance the understanding of transplantation and to prevent, diagnose and treat infectious and immune-mediated illnesses, including HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases, illness from potential agents of bioterrorism, tuberculosis, malaria, autoimmune disorders, asthma and allergies.

Press releases, fact sheets and other NIAID-related materials are available on the NIAID Web site at

NIH/National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

Related Immune System Articles from Brightsurf:

How the immune system remembers viruses
For a person to acquire immunity to a disease, T cells must develop into memory cells after contact with the pathogen.

How does the immune system develop in the first days of life?
Researchers highlight the anti-inflammatory response taking place after birth and designed to shield the newborn from infection.

Memory training for the immune system
The immune system will memorize the pathogen after an infection and can therefore react promptly after reinfection with the same pathogen.

Immune system may have another job -- combatting depression
An inflammatory autoimmune response within the central nervous system similar to one linked to neurodegenerative diseases such as multiple sclerosis (MS) has also been found in the spinal fluid of healthy people, according to a new Yale-led study comparing immune system cells in the spinal fluid of MS patients and healthy subjects.

COVID-19: Immune system derails
Contrary to what has been generally assumed so far, a severe course of COVID-19 does not solely result in a strong immune reaction - rather, the immune response is caught in a continuous loop of activation and inhibition.

Immune cell steroids help tumours suppress the immune system, offering new drug targets
Tumours found to evade the immune system by telling immune cells to produce immunosuppressive steroids.

Immune system -- Knocked off balance
Instead of protecting us, the immune system can sometimes go awry, as in the case of autoimmune diseases and allergies.

Too much salt weakens the immune system
A high-salt diet is not only bad for one's blood pressure, but also for the immune system.

Parkinson's and the immune system
Mutations in the Parkin gene are a common cause of hereditary forms of Parkinson's disease.

How an immune system regulator shifts the balance of immune cells
Researchers have provided new insight on the role of cyclic AMP (cAMP) in regulating the immune response.

Read More: Immune System News and Immune System Current Events is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to