Lupus Research Alliance Sets Bold New Strategic Plan for Research to Accelerate Innovative Research and Treatment Breakthroughs
Lupus Research Alliance Sets Bold New Strategic Plan for Research to Accelerate Innovative Research and Treatment Breakthroughs

Updated July 15, 2021

The Lupus Research Alliance (LRA) today announced a bold Strategic Plan for Research (Strategic Plan) that identifies core issues and sets new priorities to transform lupus research, accelerate breakthrough treatments and ultimately, find a cure through the power of precision medicine. The Strategic Plan is informed by years of funded research and was developed in a consensus with experts in rheumatology, immunology and other related fields. The LRA has already been working for the past year to begin to implement the ambitious agenda. A deep dive into human immunology is now possible using emerging technologies and powerful computational capabilities to understand the complexities of lupus and lead to personalized and more effective therapies.

The LRA Strategic Plan for Research will realize this potential through three critical priorities:

Priority 1: Define Lupus Heterogeneity: The Core Issue in Lupus

Lupus is a complex, heterogeneous disease that affects people differently and can change over time. The LRA will address this problem directly by identifying distinct and shared disease pathways among people with lupus. As part of this effort, LRA will work to identify novel biomarkers that enhance lupus clinical trials and may eventually serve as diagnostic markers of the disease.

Priority 2: Stratify Patients by Active Disease Mechanism to Advance New Therapeutics

The LRA, and its affiliate Lupus Therapeutics with a network of 57 prestigious academic clinical research centers, will support the discovery and development of novel disease pathways and targets to optimize treatments. Importantly, linking targets to patient heterogeneity to stratify people with lupus will promote personalized treatments and successful clinical trials. An essential element to achieve this priority will be encouraging diverse populations to participate in lupus trials, particularly African American women who are disproportionately affected by lupus. Further, the development of new endpoint measures to assess the success of experimental medicines is urgently needed. LRA will focus aggressively on the development of these endpoints.

Priority 3: Establish Motivated and Collaborative Global Research/Technology Teams

The LRA will support diverse scientific leaders, ideas and technologies in lupus research and will accelerate research into dynamic emerging areas. Several grants have already been issued by LRA to advance this priority area including the Global Team Science Award.

“At the end of the day, the best thing we can do for anyone living with lupus is to unravel the complexities of this highly individualized disease because that is what will lead to new breakthroughs in new treatments,” said Kenneth M. Farber, President and CEO of the LRA. “The Lupus Research Alliance has been responsible for many of the developments that have led to recent scientific advancements and potential treatments. We are at a turning point in research where through precision medicine we can focus on heterogeneity and novel pathways to increase our understanding of lupus and allow us to advance lupus research even further.”

Lupus is a chronic, debilitating autoimmune disease and the 5th and 6th leading cause of death among young black and Hispanic females respectively. The global consensus among researchers is that a focus on uncovering this very complexity and heterogeneity is critical to finding treatments and possible cures that are personalized based on the individual patient.

Under the new Strategic Plan, a newly formed Research Committee of the Board of Directors* and Scientific Advisory Board** consisting of internationally recognized scientists and drug development experts will bring leadership, oversight and direction to the governance of all research programs. LRA is laying out specific action plans to deliver on the priorities and recruit new expert leadership to oversee the action plans, spot emerging opportunities and evaluate and adjust as needed to ensure impact.

“Our new research strategy focuses our efforts on the key challenges in lupus to hasten the progress towards our mission,” said Teodora Staeva, PhD, Chief Scientific Officer of the LRA. “I am delighted to work with the distinguished scientists on our Research Committee and Scientific Advisory Board to implement our ambitious agenda. We are eager to build upon the existing knowledge and resources and take the next steps to find urgently needed treatments for millions of people worldwide living with lupus.”

Several new grant opportunities have been introduced to focus on our new research priorities. The LRA recently launched the Global Team Science Award inviting investigators across all relevant scientific disciplines to bring their talents to bear on deconstructing lupus heterogeneity through the application of powerful new experimental and collaborative approaches by multi-disciplinary teams. The Award will provide up to $3 million over three years – the largest lupus research grants ever given by any non-governmental, not-for-profit institution.

To facilitate research and discovery efforts, the LRA is creating a biorepository and patient registry to address existing and emerging research and clinical questions. Access to the biorepository and the registry will be available to qualified scientists working in an academic or pharmaceutical setting. As well, the LRA and the National Minority Quality Forum recently formed a partnership to address one of the biggest challenges faced by the lupus research community: encouraging identification of biodiverse lupus communities to inform and ultimately increase minority representation in lupus clinical trials. The Lupus Index, a cloud-based data warehouse, is being developed to map clusters of people living with lupus in the U.S. and enable more targeted outreach to people with lupus and those that treat them.

More details about these and other exciting initiatives will be announced in the near future – to drive the Strategic Plan for Research forward in a vigorous way – all with the goal of unraveling the complexity of lupus to find individualized treatments and potentially a cure. The implementation of this ambitious plan will require significant funds. LRA hopes to make an announcement shortly of several new gifts to launch this exciting new initiative.

*Research Committee of the BOD

Thomas O. Daniel, MD (Research Committee Co-Chair) – Chairman and President of Vividion Therapeutics; former President/Chairman, Research and Early Development, Celgene

Sir Marc Feldmann, AC, FRS (Co-Chair) – Emeritus Professor,  Kennedy Institute of Rheumatology, Nuffield Department of Orthopaedics, Rheumatology & Musculoskeletal Sciences University of Oxford Medical Sciences Division

Ira Akselrad – President, The Johnson Company

Mark M. Davis, PhD – Director of the Stanford Institute for Immunology, Transplantation and Infection (ITI); Professor of Microbiology and Immunology; Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator

Richard K. DeScherer – Chief Legal and Compliance Officer, Bloomberg L.P.

Ira Mellman, PhD – Vice President of Research Oncology, Genentech

John O’Shea, MD – Scientific Director and Director of the NIAMS Intramural Research Program and

Adjunct Professor, Department of Pathology at the University of Pennsylvania

Robert Seder, MD – Chief, Cellular Immunology Section in the Vaccine Research Center, National Institute of Health (NIH)

David Wofsy, MD – Professor of Medicine and Microbiology/Immunology at University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) and Associate Dean for Admissions, UCSF School of Medicine

William J. Wolfe – Co-founder, President and CEO, First Washington Realty, Inc. 

** Scientific Advisory Board 

Gary Koretzky, MD, PhD, Chair – Professor of Medicine at Weill Cornell Graduate School of Medical Sciences

Vivien Bonazzi, PhD – Chief Biomedical Data Scientist and Managing Director, Deloitte

Mary Collins, PhD – Consultant; former Chief Scientific Officer and Vice President of the Immunology and Autoimmunity Research Unit for Pfizer

Nir Hacohen, PhD – Director of the Center for Cancer Immunology, Massachusetts General Hospital; Co-Director of the Center for Cell Circuits at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard; and the David P. Ryan Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School

Mariana Kaplan, MD – Senior Investigator and Chief of the Systemic Autoimmunity Branch at the National Institute for Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS), National Institutes of Health; Deputy Scientific Director, Intramural Research Program at NIAMS

Josef Penninger, MD, PhD – Director, Life Sciences Institute, University of British Columbia (UBC); Professor, Dept of Medical Genetics, UBC

Robert Plenge, MD, PhD – Senior Vice President, Research & Early Development, and Head, Immunology, Cardiovascular, Fibrosis, and Global Health (ICFG), Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS) 

David Rawlings, MD – Director, Center for Immunity and Immunotherapies at Seattle Children’s Research Institute; and Chief of the Division of Immunology overseeing the immunodeficiency clinical program at Seattle Children’s Hospital

Jane Salmon, MD – Professor of Medicine and Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Weill Cornell Medical College; Collette Kean Research Professor at Hospital for Special Surgery

George C. Tsokos, MD – Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Harvard Medical School Staff


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