Lupus Research Institute awards $4.5 million to advance new science in lupus

October 11, 2005

NEW YORK, NY, October 11, 2005 - Following an intensive scientific review of the largest number of grant applications ever received--nearly double that of previous years--the national nonprofit Lupus Research Institute (LRI) has awarded $4.5 million in new grants to 15 scientists investigating highly promising novel research approaches to lupus.

Recipients culled from the pool of 81 applications from around the country will receive 3-year, $300,000 grants to pursue the type of research that the LRI defines as core to its mission: innovative and creative work, representing "outside the box" thinking that has the potential to make significant impact on the field of lupus research and on the estimated 1.5 million Americans living with this devastating autoimmune disease.

While often high-risk (9 of the new grants qualify as such), many of the projects that the five-year-old LRI is funding have already demonstrated the potential for "high-reward"--surging ahead in breakthroughs in understanding the cause, prevention and treatment strategies for the disease.

"The quality, novelty, and scope of these grants exceeded all our expectations," said Mark Shlomchik, MD, PhD, the LRI Novel Research Task Force Co-Chairman and Professor of Laboratory Medicine and Immunobiology at Yale University School of Medicine. "We're very impressed at the range of research areas represented--from basic immunology to human studies in the renal, neurological and cardiovascular systems that lupus attacks."

By appealing to researchers in many specialties, Shlomchik added, the LRI spurs novel approaches and collaborations not previously applied to lupus. A remarkable number--nearly half--of the 2005 grant recipients are bringing their scientific talents to the study of lupus for the first time.

A Proven Formula for Success

"The LRI novel research strategy is working," said Nicholas Chiorazzi, MD, Director of the Institute for Medical Research of the North Shore-LIJ Health System, and Co-Chairman of the LRI Novel Research Task Force. "It's supporting the level of new investigations that the NIH typically does not back, and then moving these ideas ahead to secure large federal funding at the end of the LRI grant cycle."

To date, more than 70 percent of the LRI investigators who have completed their projects have gone on to secure large-scale federal funding.

With the award of the new grants, the LRI now funds the largest number of privately supported scientific investigators in lupus nationwide. The scientists awarded $300,000 grants are:

Pascale Alard, Ph.D.
University of Louisville Research Foundation, Inc., KY
Title: Enhancing Immunoregulation to Prevent and/or Cure SLE

Felipe Andrade, M.D., Ph.D.
Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD
Title: Exploring the Molecular Mechanisms Involved in Lupus Remission

Timothy W. Behrens, M.D.
University of Minnesota Medical School, Minneapolis, MN
Title: Serum Protein Biomarkers for Disease Activity in Human SLE

Janis Burkhardt, Ph.D.
Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, PA and the University of Pennsylvania
Title: Analysis of a Lupus-Associated HS1 Isoform

Marcus R. Clark, M.D.
University of Chicago, IL
Title: Pathobiology of Resistant B Lymphocytes in Human Lupus Nephritis

Christine M. Grimaldi, Ph.D.
Columbia University, New York, NY
Title: Genetic Basis for Estrogen-Exacerbated SLE

Roland G. Henry, Ph.D.
University of California, San Francisco, CA
Title: Neuropsychiatric Symptoms and Brain MRI Markers in SLE Patients

Daniel H. Kaplan, M.D., Ph.D.
Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT
Title: Involvement of Plasmacytoid DCs in the Development of SLE

Greg E. Lemke, Ph.D.
The Salk Institute for Biological Studies, La Jolla, CA
Title: TAM Receptors - Their Function in Dendritic Cell Regulation and Role in Autoimmune Disease. Theresa T. Lu, M.D., Ph.D.
Hospital for Special Surgery, New York, NY
Title: Type 1 Interferons and Lymphoid Tissue Blood Vessel Growth in SLE

Amy S. Major, Ph.D.
Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, Nashville, TN
Title: Autoimmune Mechanisms of Enhanced Atherosclerosis in SLE

Marko Z. Radic, Ph.D.
University of Tennessee, Health Science Center, Memphis, TN
Title: Characteristics of Autoimmune Nucleosome Complexes Generated in Apoptosis

Inez Rogatsky, Ph.D.
Hospital for Special Surgery, New York, NY
Title: Regulation of Interferon Production: IRF3 as a Transcriptional Target for the Glucocorticoid Receptor

Martin Weigert, Ph.D.
University of Chicago, IL
Title: Light Chain Editors and Autoimmunity

Zhixin (Jason) Zhang, Ph.D.
University of Alabama at Birmingham, AL
Title: Affinity Maturation of Anti-DNA Antibodies during the Germinal Center Reaction in SLE Patients
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