Leading the way to a cure

Lupus Research Update: 2008 Volume 1

Volume 1, 2008 - Online Edition | In This Issue

ALR Funded International Consortium Identifies Genes Linked to Lupus >
The Faces of Lupus: Eddie Kennison, Kansas City Chiefs >
Meet the Investigator — Mary K. Crow, M.D., Named Chair of Scientific Advisory Board >
Research Results — A New Clue in the Survival of Autoimmune B Cells >
Research Results — Narrowing Down a Lupus-Related Gene >
Research Results — Finding Hidden Clues to Children's Lupus Nephritis >
Research Results — Finding Ways to a Safer Pregnancy for Women with Lupus >
Drug Research and Development News >
Leaving a Legacy >

Meet the Investigator — Mary K. Crow, M.D., Named Chair of Scientific Advisory Board

Mary K. Crow, M.D.It's changing-of-the-guard time at the Alliance for Lupus Research (ALR). After four years as chair of the ALR's Scientific Advisory Board (SAB), Joseph Craft, M.D., is relinquishing the post to Mary "Peggy" K. Crow, M.D., Professor of Medicine and the Benjamin M. Rosen Chair in Immunology and Inflammation Research at the Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS) in New York City. Dr. Crow also directs the Rheumatology Research and Autoimmunity and Inflammation Programs at HSS and is co-director of the Mary Kirkland Center for Lupus Research.

"All of us at the ALR are grateful for Dr. Craft's leadership during our early years," says the ALR's President Barbara Boyts. "His work on the SAB was invaluable in shaping our research programs."

"The ALR's SAB serves a unique function," she noted, "evaluating grant applications after they have been winnowed down and prioritized through a peer review process. The group then makes funding recommendations to the ALR's Board of Directors."

The ALR's key areas of focus are targeted identification of the pathways that cause lupus and the use of that knowledge to better design therapeutic pathways and approaches. Looking back on the grants made during his tenure and before, Dr. Craft, Professor of Medicine and Immunobiology and Chief of Rheumatology at the Yale University School of Medicine, pointed to the progress the ALR has been able to make in a relatively short period. For instance, at least four new treatments currently in clinical trials have been developed with the support of ALR-funded research. "I think it's really a feather in the cap of ALR that we've made such major strides in this area," he said.

In addition, during Dr. Craft's tenure the ALR launched a Pilot Grant Program to provide seed money for novel ideas that could shape the future of lupus research. "There were certain ideas that were not quite ready for large-scale investigation, but were so novel it merited our support to get it started," he explained. Eventually, the goal is to enable investigators to gather enough preliminary data to write grants for additional support. "Otherwise, these ideas might dry up and die," Dr. Craft said. Since the Pilot Grant Program is only two years old, it's still too early to see significant results. But he's sure they will come. The other major initiative, during Dr. Craft's tenure, was the ALR's support of the International SLE Genetics (SLEGEN) Consortium research project. SLEGEN was supported with $2.25 million in ALR funding. In January, it published its first major findings in the journal Nature Genetics.

The goal now, according to Dr. Craft and Dr. Crow, is to move the findings from SLEGEN closer to the bedside. "There's so much opportunity now to really understand what the role of the variations of these genes is in the disease process," said Dr. Crow. "Now is the time to start understanding the function of those genes and how the variations either lead to lupus or to particular manifestations of the disease. The new data will also stimulate lupus investigators to study other components of the molecular pathways linked to those genes.

"I think it will be very beneficial for the ALR to encourage research that will follow up on the SLEGEN study &emdash functional studies linked to the genes and pathways identified so far," she said.Joseph Craft, M.D.

In addition to pursuing the genetic studies, Dr. Crow said she plans to maintain the ALR's primary focus of bringing new treatments to people with lupus. "While the NIH and private foundations have that as an ultimate goal, the ALR has really distinguished itself by pushing investigators to keep that goal in mind and demonstrate that their research is leading in that direction. That has to be continued as a priority."

Dr. Crow praised her predecessor for the "fantastic job" he's done over the past four years. "I think the ALR has grown a lot and become very integrated into the lupus investigator community since Joe has been the chair," she said.

Ms. Boyts seconds that sentiment. "The ALR could never have come this far without Dr. Craft's expertise," she said. "We are pleased to be able to replace him with such a renowned figure in the field of lupus research as Dr. Crow and are all looking forward to building on our previous successes with Dr. Crow at the helm."

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