New Round of Lupus Research Institute Awards Brings Promise of More Breakthroughs

Twelve Grants Enable Testing of Innovative Hypotheses

New York, Oct. 22, 2007 – The Lupus Research Institute (LRI) has announced the selection of its 6th round of Novel Research Grants—crucial funds to scientists across the nation primed to explore entirely new ideas on why the lupus immune system so tragically attacks the body it should be protecting. The LRI is the only national nonprofit organization singularly devoted to pioneering innovative lupus research.

The outlay of $300,000 to each scientist in this latest round of grants brings the LRI’s total investment in novel lupus research to $22 million for 85 grants since the Institute was founded in 2000 – the largest number and the widest range of privately funded lupus research nationwide. Studies span 51 academic medical centers across 20 states. The 2007 investigators are working at academic institutions from Connecticut to California, New York, Virginia, Washington, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania.

“This strategy of focusing 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 the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease-National Institutes of Health, and chairman of the LRI’s Scientific Advisory Board. “Through its annual support, the LRI strengthens the lupus research landscape and moves novel concepts forward to secure large-scale federal funding.”

And if previous results are any guide, these unexplored ideas hold enormous promise for breakthroughs and extended funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and other sources. LRI-funded scientists have turned the Institute’s $9 million investment from 2001 to 2004 into a record $30 million in new grant funding from the NIH and other sources.

This year’s recipients of the highly competitive grants, which propose investigations that range from fundamental exploration of the immune system to clinical studies in humans, were selected by the Institute’s distinguished Peer Review Committee because of their unique and potentially groundbreaking nature. The committee seeks the best new science and the widest possible scope of ideas. While high-risk in many cases, the studies are also ripe with promise for cracking the mysteries of a disorder that devastates more than 1.5 million Americans, and millions more worldwide. No new treatment for lupus has been approved in nearly 50 years, and current therapies can be toxic.

The LRI encourages grant applications from such diverse disciplines as genetics, immunology, cardiology, and neurology, and from both experienced scientists and new investigators. Some recipients may never have worked in lupus, but their hypotheses have the potential to shed light on the mysteries of this disabling disease. Several of the 2007 grant recipients, for example, are investigating potential lupus biomarkers (“early markers” or “predictors” of disease and treatments) that might help diagnose, monitor, and treat lupus more successfully than current tests do. Altogether, the LRI has made possible the investigation of more than 20 potential biomarkers, 6 of which are already being tested in people.

“These 2007 research grants are of exceptional interest and quality, and will likely lead to important advances in lupus,” said David S. Pisetsky, MD, PhD, co-chair of the LRI Peer Review Task Force and chief of the Division of Rheumatology and Immunology at Duke University Medical Center. “By building on recent findings in basic research, especially in immunology, on the mechanisms underlying the origin and development of lupus, they may well lead to improved care and treatment for people with this difficult illness.”

Top lupus scientists from government and academia on the Institute’s Peer Review Task Force rigorously evaluate the submissions. Dr. Pisetsky co-chaired the 2007 Task Force with Mark Shlomchik, MD, PhD, professor of Laboratory Medicine and Immunology at Yale University School of Medicine.

About the LRI

The Lupus Research Institute leads the way to a cure for lupus by unleashing the scientific community’s creativity, championing innovation and exploring uncharted territory in lupus research. It is the only national nonprofit organization singularly devoted to innovative science in lupus, recognizing that most major breakthroughs come from unexpected directions. The Institute fosters and supports only the highest-ranked new science to prevent, treat, and cure this chronic autoimmune disease. To learn more, visit www.LupusResearchInstitute.org.

About Lupus

There is no known treatment or cure for lupus (systemic lupus erythematosus, or S.L.E.), a chronic disorder that can attack virtually any body organ and can be fatal. Lupus is one of the nation’s least recognized major diseases. It is considered the prototype autoimmune disease because the body’s immune system forms antibodies that can attack virtually any healthy organ or tissue, from the kidneys to the brain, heart, lungs, skin, joints, and blood. Lupus is a leading cause of heart attack, kidney disease, and stroke among young women.

More Americans are diagnosed with lupus than with multiple sclerosis, cystic fibrosis, cerebral palsy, sickle cell anemia, or AIDS.

The 2007 LRI Novel Research Grant Recipients

Jennifer Anolik, MD, PhD
University of Rochester
B cell homeostasis during B cell depletion therapy in mice

Gregory Barton, PhD
University of California, Berkeley
The role of ubiquitin-mediated downregulation of TLR7 and TLR9 in lupus

Loren Erickson, PhD
University of Virginia
The Role of Nba2 in Plasma Cell Differentiation

Nir Hacohen, PhD
Massachusetts General Hospital
Identification of genes that mediate the response to SLE immune complexes

Vicki Kelley, PhD
Brigham and Women's Hospital
Colony Stimulating Factor 1: Role in Cutaneous Lupus

Marianthi Kiriakidou, MD
University of Pennsylvania
Expression and function of T cell-specific microRNAs in a murine SLE model

Tracy McGaha, PhD
Temple University
Marginal Zone Macrophages in the Maintenance of Peripheral Tolerance

Yorgo Modis, PhD
Yale University
Structural basis of endogenous nucleic acid recognition by TLR7 and TLR9

Thomas Rothstein, MD, PhD
The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research
An Alternate BCR Signaling Pathway to Autoimmunity

Anne Stevens, MD, PhD
Children's Hospital and Regional Medical Center
Mechanisms of PD-L1 Dysregulation in Pediatric Lupus

Betty Tsao, PhD
University of California, Los Angeles
The Role of X-linked Genes in Risk for Male Lupus

Matthias Wabl, PhD
University of California, San Francisco
Retroelement as etiological agent in lupus