Leading the way to a cure

Federal Funding for Lupus Research

Department of Defense Peer Reviewed Medical Program

Please visit PRMRP's website, http://cdmrp.army.mil/funding/prmrp.htm,  for more information including a synopsis of all award mechanisms available under this program, and to access the application.

Two more lupus investigators, Dr. John Harley of the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation and Dr. Insoo Kang from Yale University, have received funds from this program bringing the total amount awarded to lupus research to a projected $8 million. 

Click here for the new updated list of federally-funded projects to date.

In 2004, ALR achieved an important public policy milestone when the Department of Defense (DoD) agreed to include lupus in the list of diseases funded through their Peer Reviewed Medical Research Program. This marked the first time lupus would be included, with 23 other topic areas, in this $50 million program. Through ALR’s continued efforts, the DoD has awarded over $8 million to lupus researchers since 2004. See below for details of these projects.

Two new projects from Dr. John Harley of the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation and Dr. Insoo Kang from Yale University have just been announced!  Stay tuned for more details.

Joseph M. Ahearn, MD
Lupus Center of Excellence, University of Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh, PA

Summary: Dr. Joseph M. Ahearn, M.D., Associate Professor of Medicine and Co-Director of the Lupus Center of Excellence at the University of Pittsburgh, discovered a common biomarker (C4d) in the platelets of patients with lupus. Now, with funding from the Department of Defense, Dr. Ahearn and his team will examine how C4d-carrying platelets are generated in lupus patients and how they function. “Early support from the ALR was instrumental in laying the groundwork that put us in a position to apply for Defense Department funding,” said Dr. Ahearn. “We couldn’t have done it without dedicated early support from the ALR.”

What this study means for people with lupus: This research could lead to treatments to intervene and prevent the complications of C4d-carrying platelets in patients with lupus.

Prasad Devarajan, MD
Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center
Cincinnati, Ohio

Early Prediction Of Lupus Nephritis Using Advanced Proteomics*

Summary: About 60 percent of all patients with SLE will develop nephritis, kidney damage that dramatically reduces their survival rate. Current kidney biomarkers are not sensitive enough to identify patients with SLE nephritis early. By the time the condition is identified, permanent damage has already occurred. Along with Dr. Devarajan, ALR-funded investigator Dr. Hermine Brunner and their group plan to identify biomarker patterns in SLE nephritis that can be used to diagnose the disease early, when treatment is most likely to prevent permanent damage.

What this study means for people with lupus: The ability to identify lupus nephritis in the beginnings of the disease would enable treatment to start earlier, possibly preventing permanent damage and reducing the risk of death.

Betty Diamond, MD and Christine Grimaldi, PhD
Feinstein Institute of Medical Research
North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health Systems
Manhasset, New York

Determination of the role of estrogen receptors and estrogen regulated genes in B cell autoreactivity

Summary: Drs. Diamond and Grimaldi have designed their study to better understand why estrogen seems to affect autoimmune activity in some patients with systemic lupus, as shown in animal studies. Their study will help identify individuals whose disease is exacerbated by estrogen and those in whom their disease does not respond to estrogen.

What the study means for people with lupus: Understanding the effects of estrogen on lupus disease activity could be used to develop new ways of monitoring the disease and new therapeutic options, possibly by changing the hormonal environment in women with lupus.

Emily Gillespie, PhD
University of Minnesota
Minneapolis, Minnesota

Validating Biomarkers in Systemic Lupus*

Summary: Dr. Gillespie plans to use an existing database of microarrays from lupus patients to identify genes that best predict current disease activity as well as the future development of active lupus. Using this information, she and her team plan to build models and identify genetic signatures that correlate with outcomes in the database. They will then develop and validate real-time tests to identify the genes and groups of genes that best represent relevant global gene expression signatures of lupus activity.

What this study means for people with lupus: Faster, more accurate diagnoses and assessment of disease activity would allow patients to begin treatment sooner, perhaps avoiding some of the permanent damage that results from lupus. These genetic signatures could also help target new therapies to those patients most likely to respond.

Stephen Tomlinson, PhD
Medical University of South Carolina
Charleston, South Carolina

Complement Inhibitory Therapy of Lupus*

Summary: With the DoD grant, Dr. Tomlinson will study a new, potentially safer approach for the treatment of lupus based on the complement system, a set of proteins designed to protect against infection and help clear dead and dying cells. This cascade of proteins is activated by three pathways while inhibitors keep them in check. But in lupus, activation of the complement cascade contributes to tissue damage in the kidneys, skin and joints.

With this grant, Dr. Tomlinson will develop compounds to inhibit specific pathways of complement activation. This targeted approach will allow for ongoing normal complement functions while blocking the inappropriate activation that occurs in lupus.

What this study means for people with lupus: Once the efficacy of these inhibitors is shown in mouse models, they can be quickly translated into use for human disease and evaluated in clinical trials as a possible lupus treatment. They should also have benefits for other diseases in which activation of the complement plays a key role.

George C. Tsokos, MD
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
Harvard Institutes of Medicine
Boston, Massachusetts

T Cell Lipid Rafts And Complement Ligands For Diagnosis And Monitoring Of SLE

Summary: Dr. Tsokos and his team plan to use their grant to prove two hypotheses: That the complement activation products they have discovered on T cells may alter the characteristics and function of T cells, leading to the immune reactions and inflammatory processes characteristic of systemic lupus; and that T cells that contain the complement activation products may provide sensitive biomarkers for disease activity in lupus.

What this study means for people with lupus: Proving these theories will pave the way for unique new targeted therapies for lupus, as well as a new way of diagnosing the disease and disease activity.

*Proposal data supported by previous ALR Target Identification in Lupus grant.

Please note: the award of federal funds to support any of these proposals is contingent upon successful negotiations and applicable federal policy.

Click here to download our 2009 Research Portfolio Summary (pdf)

1.5 million

people in the U.S. have Lupus.

172 million

dollars committed to lupus research by the Lupus Research Alliance.

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