March 8, 2022
In honor of Women’s History Month, the LRA is saluting the three exceptional women who serve on our Scientific Advisory Board. Each is a stand-out in lupus research discovery: Mary Collins, PhD, Instructor at Harvard Medical School; Judith James, MD, PhD, Chair of the Arthritis and Clinical Immunology Program and Lou Kerr Chair in Biomedical Research at Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation; and Jane Salmon, MD, Professor at Weill Cornell Medical College and Collette Kean Research Professor at Hospital for Special Surgery.
Meet Dr. Mary Collins
This first week our focus is on Dr. Mary Collins, a recognized leader in the biopharmaceutical industry for nearly 30 years leading research efforts in industry to discover and develop new therapeutics for the treatment of inflammatory diseases like lupus. Prior to her retirement from industry, she served as Chief Scientific Officer of the Immunology and Autoimmunity Research Unit for Pfizer.
Mary was fascinated by immunology from the get-go. She was particularly interested in understanding how to control the autoimmune and inflammatory responses that characterize lupus and other diseases. She is most proud of the contributions her work made in discovering receptors for new cytokines which are produced by immune cells and are involved in causing inflammation.
“With the greater current effort placed on autoimmune and inflammatory diseases among biotech and pharmaceutical companies, we are better positioned to develop new drug candidates to treat and cure lupus,” she commented.
But as exciting and pioneering as this work has been, Mary’s pride and joy lies in having mentored scientists who are conducting immunology research today and having fostered their work in the pharmaceutical industry. And she continues to advise young scientists in her role at Harvard Medical School.
Mary’s vision for the future of lupus research is the realization of personalized or precision medicine. “We now have new molecular and computational tools that allow research on small tissue samples donated by lupus patients. These tools will allow us to better understand the reasons for disease heterogeneity among lupus patients, to identify drivers of each patient’s disease and to develop appropriate therapies to address their disease.”
From her tenure in the biopharma industry, Mary brings to LRA’s SAB a broad understanding of how new drugs are developed, strategic planning expertise, and a passion for mentoring young scientists as they enter the world of lupus research.
“When I was starting out in my career, new opportunities were emerging for women in scientific research and I had wonderful mentors who helped advance my career. It is so important that we nurture and develop talented and creative scientists to ensure that the best ideas and solutions emerge to treat and cure lupus. I am pleased that the LRA is addressing this challenge with the Diversity in Lupus Research program that enables the careers of talented scientists from minority or disadvantaged backgrounds who are working to help patients living with lupus.”