2018 Awards Enable Promising Scientists to Bring Innovative Approaches to Lupus Research
The Lupus Research Alliance announced six new Novel Research Grants to support paradigm-changing lupus research. To conquer the complexity of lupus, the Novel Research Grants support researchers who study lupus from many perspectives, testing new theories about what causes lupus and why it has such varied and widespread effects on the body.
The Lupus Research Alliance is committed to developing scientific talent, and five of the six recipients this year are early-career investigators. Some of the grantees are probing new questions for the debilitating complications that plague people with lupus. Others are looking to harness the body’s protections against the immune system attacks that drive lupus. And some of our researchers are working to improve existing treatment strategies.
UNCOVERING THE CAUSES OF LUPUS COMPLICATIONS
Erika Boesen, PhD, University of Nebraska Medical Center
Getting to the root of lupus nephritis
Dr. Boesen will use her Novel Research Grant to test a new hypothesis for the cause of lupus nephritis, a type of kidney disease that affects nearly half of patients with lupus. Understanding how kidney cells die in lupus nephritis is crucial for developing new treatments to protect the cells. The John and Marsha Goldman Foundation specified that their 2018 contribution be directed specifically to support this project.
Theresa Lu, MD, PhD, The Hospital for Special Surgery
Brightening the outlook for photosensitive people
Sunlight makes many people with lupus sick, causing skin inflammation and sometimes triggering disease flares. Dr. Lu is exploring a new explanation for why so many lupus patients are photosensitive, or sensitive to light—poor circulation in their lymphatic system. Her findings could make the case for developing new drugs to boost lymphatic flow.
CATCHING LUPUS’ CELLULAR CULPRITS
Kevin Nickerson, PhD, University of Pittsburgh
Old B cells may drive damage in lupus
In lupus, some B cells stop attacking bacteria and viruses and start attacking patients’ cells. These harmful B cells appear to be old, and Dr. Nickerson’s study might identify a specific target so that scientists could design new drugs that destroy or inhibit the harmful B cells while sparing protective ones.
Jeremy Tilstra, MD, PhD, University of Pittsburgh
Tiring out T cells to prevent organ damage
Dr. Tilstra and colleagues had previously discovered that in lupus some T cells in the kidneys appear to be exhausted—they can no longer launch attacks. His Novel Research Grant will build on this important discovery and allow him to determine when T cells become exhausted and whether the kidneys modify the cells to stop them from attacking the organ. Scientists may then be able to develop new treatments that exhaust T cells and curb the damage to patients’ organs.
NEW TREATMENTS TO TAME THE IMMUNE SYSTEM
Joshua Ooi, PhD, Monash University, Australia
Building a better regulatory T cell
Regulatory T cells put the brakes on the immune system, and clinical trials are already testing theeffects of boosting these cells’ function in patients with lupus. Dr. Ooi will use his Novel Research Grant to genetically engineer these cells and bolster their potential as a lupus treatment.
Michael Waterfield, MD, PhD, University of California, San Francisco
Dr. Waterfield is exploring a potential new way to boost immune cells’ production of a molecule known as interleukin-2 that calms the immune system and holds great promise for reducing lupus symptoms
The Lupus Research Alliance Novel Research Grant program provides three-year, $300,000 grants to investigators proposing exceptionally creative, high-risk, high-reward research on lupus and its complications. This year’s promising research studies supported by the Novel Research Grants will advance our understanding of lupus and accelerate our progress toward the ultimate goal — improving treatments while driving toward a cure for people living with lupus.