NEW YORK, NY. July 14, 2020 — The Lupus Research Alliance (LRA) is pleased to announce the recipients of the inaugural LRA-BMS Accelerator Award*, a collaborative project with sponsoring partner Bristol Myers Squibb. The Award provides a collective total of $3,000,000 to support ten cutting-edge lupus research projects over two years that focus on understanding the underlying causes of systemic and cutaneous lupus, unraveling its complexity, and identifying novel biomarkers.
Ten recipients were selected from a large volume of promising applications from throughout the country and abroad. Several researchers are working to understand how the immune system overreacts, while three are testing new markers in the blood and urine that may be used to better diagnose and monitor the disease. Other projects focus on identifying the genetic causes of lupus, and one is looking at how to improve the evaluation of clinical trial results.
LRA Chief Scientific Officer Dr. Teodora Staeva commented, “The Lupus Research Alliance is delighted to be partnering with pharmaceutical leader Bristol Myers Squibb to support critical fundamental research that could lead to much-needed new therapies, biomarkers, patient-stratification approaches and outcome measures for lupus.”
Peter Schafer, Executive Director, Translational Medicine at BMS, commented, “We’re excited to work with the Lupus Research Alliance on this initiative, as there’s a significant unmet need for people living with lupus. We believe the LRA-BMS Accelerator Award will advance critical research that will help us better understand this devastating disease.”
LRA-BMS Award Recipients
Characterizing the Immune Response to Lupus
Joseph Craft, PhD, Yale University
Pathogenesis of Chronic Cutaneous Lupus Erythematosus
Dr. Craft will utilize cutting-edge technology to better understand how immune cells damage skin cells in people living with chronic cutaneous lupus.
Joel Guthridge, PhD, Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation
Predicting treatment responses in patients with systemic lupus
Dr. Guthridge’s study will use emerging technology to understand the immune response of patients who respond positively to treatment with abatacept. Results of this study may help predict which patients are most likely to benefit from different lupus treatments.
Victoria Werth, MD, University of Pennsylvania
Predicting treatment responses in patients with cutaneous lupus
Dr. Werth’s study will identify key immune cells that correlate with successful treatment, which will allow clinicians to predict which patients are likely to respond to the lupus drug hydroxychloroquine and other antimalarials before starting treatment.
J. Michelle Kahlenberg, MD, PhD, University of Michigan
Comparing the immune response in patients with systemic and cutaneous lupus
Dr. Kahlenberg’s research will measure the immune response in the blood and skin samples from people with either systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) or cutaneous lupus erythematosus (CLE) to better understand what causes each and how best to diagnose and treat each type.
Evaluating Lupus Biomarkers
Ilana Brito, PhD, Cornell University
Linking gut bacteria to lupus
Dr. Brito’s research is looking at the specific effects of bacteria in the gut on the immune system of lupus patients. This research will help identify new markers of lupus that could serve as targets for treatment and possibly diagnosis.
Chandra Mohan, MD, PhD, University of Houston
Monitoring Lupus Nephritis in a Less Invasive Way
Dr. Mohan’s research has identified and will test the effectiveness of markers in the urine of lupus patients to diagnose lupus nephritis and monitor its treatment. This approach may reduce the need for invasive surgical kidney biopsies.
Searching for the Genetic Causes of Lupus
Marta Alarcón-Riquelme, MD, PhD, Fundación Pública Andaluza Progreso y Salud
Determining the genetic basis of the lupus immune response
Dr. Alarcon-Riquelme is looking to find the specific genes associated with differences in how the immune system functions that distinguish groups of lupus patients. Her results may help determine optimal therapies for each group of patients.
Patrick Gaffney, MD, Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation
Finding race-specific predictors of lupus
Dr. Gaffney’s study aims to uncover how race and ethnicity are linked to differences in the type of organ damage caused by lupus and identify new treatment targets.
Vivian K. Kawai, MD, Vanderbilt University Medical Center
Identifying genes controlling lupus and its severity
Dr. Kawai is using a novel approach of combining data from different sources to determine the genetic risk factors for developing severe lupus.
Improving Clinical Trials
Kenneth C. Kalunian, MD, University of California, San Diego
Choosing better endpoints for clinical trials
Dr. Kalunian will develop a comprehensive tool for researchers to best understand and evaluate the effectiveness of potential therapies in clinical trials.
About the LRA-BMS Accelerator Award
The LRA-BMS Accelerator Award was created to fund cutting-edge research projects that focus on understanding the underlying mechanisms of disease, addressing lupus heterogeneity, and identifying novel biomarkers. The initiative aims to stimulate lupus research innovation, accelerate investigation on human lupus rather than relevant model organisms, and realize synergies between academia and industry. A collaboration with the pharmaceutical company Bristol Myers Squibb, the Award provides $300,000 to each awardee over two years. Close oversight is provided by a Joint Steering Committee with equal representation from LRA and BMS. The company will have first right to negotiate with the principal investigator’s institutions for any intellectual property arising from the projects.
Lupus is a chronic, complex autoimmune disease that affects millions of people worldwide. More than 90 percent of people with lupus are women; lupus most often strikes during the childbearing years of 15-45. African Americans, Latinx, Asians and Native Americans are two to three times at greater risk than Caucasians. In lupus, the immune system, which is designed to protect against infection, creates antibodies that can attack any part of the body including the kidneys, brain, heart, lungs, blood, skin, and joints.
About Lupus Research Alliance
The Lupus Research Alliance aims to transform treatment while advancing toward a cure by funding the most innovative lupus research in the world. The organization’s stringent peer review grant process fosters diverse scientific talent who are driving discovery toward better diagnostics, improved treatments and ultimately a cure for lupus. Because the Lupus Research Alliance’s Board of Directors fund all administrative and fundraising costs, 100 percent of all donations goes to support lupus research programs.
*Formerly the LRA-Celgene Accelerator Award
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