May 10, 2019
We are so fortunate to welcome Dr. Gary Koretzky as the new Co-chair partnering with Dr. Mary Crow in leading the Lupus Research Alliance (LRA) Scientific Advisory Board. As Professor of Medicine at Weill Cornell Medicine and Vice Provost for Academic Integration of Cornell University, Dr. Koretzky creates and implements initiatives that facilitate research collaborations. Having earned his MD and PhD at the University of Pennsylvania, then internal medicine and rheumatology training at the University of California, San Francisco, he has been in involved in rheumatology and immunology research for over 35 years.
The following is a conversation we had with Dr. Koretzky about what he hopes to bring to the Lupus Research Alliance and why he is optimistic for the future:
Why did you choose to join the Scientific Advisory Board of the Lupus Research Alliance?
Joining the Lupus Research Alliance Scientific Advisory Board is a natural step for me. I trained as a rheumatologist and have always been intrigued by the complex nature of rheumatologic disorders. The recent past has seen remarkable achievements and advances in our understanding and treatment of many rheumatologic diseases, but this unfortunately, has not been the case for lupus. I do believe though that opportunities exist to think differently about this serious disease with the hope that doing so will lead to new advances to that will benefit our patients. I am excited about participating in ways to make this happen.
Why did I choose the LRA? I have interacted with the LRA in a number of ways in the past. I have gotten to know the philosophy of the organization and the individuals leading its efforts. They are a great group of people who are committed to taking a fresh look at the ways we study lupus. The LRA is focused very much on recognizing that the only way we are truly going to advance how we care for lupus patients is to understand the basic biology better and to translate those discoveries through clinical investigation.
What do you hope to bring to the organization?
I have been involved in research throughout my entire career. My own research interests center on fundamental immunology. Given the evidence that immune dysregulation is foundational for lupus, I feel that my scientific background will allow me to contribute to and assist the LRA in imagining its next steps. Beyond this, however, I have also had the opportunity to build programs, to seek connections among investigators, and to bring them together. I think that is what is really needed in our next phase of lupus research is to bring investigators from various disciplines together, engage people who don’t study lupus now but could and should, and build partnerships between institutions, as well as between industry and academia.
What accomplishments do you hope to achieve?
One of the biggest accomplishments will be to engage world-class investigators who are not investigating lupus now but would have an interest in tackling the underlying questions and problems. To build partnerships between investigators so people are not doing work in silos, and to really engage not just academics but also biotech and pharmaceutical companies in a very productive way. Recognizing that lupus is not a singular disease requires a very deep understanding of systems and computational biology. Bringing these tools to the table will be very advantageous in our efforts to truly understand lupus.
What is the future of lupus research?
The future of lupus research will involve taking a step back, thinking about the disease holistically and recognizing its variability. True advances in understanding and treating lupus will come from multidisciplinary research – bringing together fundamental immunology, genetics, epigenetics, computational biology, and studying single cells as we identify different cell populations. We are recognizing that lupus is not a single disease, but is in fact a complex disorder, likely with a myriad of causes. Probing the biology of the different disease states that we now classify as lupus will help to uncover the key fundamental biologic principles that will inform the next generation of translational discovery.
Why should patients feel hopeful about their future?
Patients should be hopeful because of advances that have been made in understanding how fundamental biologic principles impact health. There has truly been a revolution in many areas of medicine that has allowed new, remarkably effective therapies to emerge. We’ve certainly seen this in recent years with regards to cancer. Some of our very best new cancer therapeutics arose from understanding the fundamental biology of the immune system and how the immune system can be harnessed to combat malignancies. In rheumatology, treatments for rheumatoid arthritis that have absolutely transformed how we care for patients have come from understanding disease fundamentals. I believe we are on the cusp of doing this now for lupus.