What's New at LRI
A “Breakthrough Decade”: $100 Million for Innovative Lupus Research
It was announced last night that over the past decade, the Lupus Research Institute (LRI)’s pioneering science has generated $100 million in new research funding for the devastating autoimmune disease of systemic lupus.
“In powering unprecedented scientific discovery, the LRI has forever changed the field of lupus research,” said LRI Board Member Richard K. DeScherer at the annual S.L.E. Lupus Foundation gala in New York. “LRI scientists have turned $30 million dollars in initial LRI grant funding into $70 million more from the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
“That’s what we call a breakthrough decade!” he said. “An incredible $100 million dollars for entirely new science in lupus—innovative work that would not exist without the LRI taking risks on the most brilliant scientific minds in the country.”
“The LRI strategy of funding novel scientific ideas in lupus has more than demonstrated its power,” said William E. Paul, MD, chief of the Laboratory of Immunology at NIAID-NIH, and chair of the LRI Scientific Advisory Board. “The LRI model strengthens the lupus research landscape by moving novel concepts forward to secure large-scale federal funding.”
“The speed with which the Institute has changed the outlook for lupus research is remarkable,” Dr. Paul said.
The LRI selects Novel Research Grant awards based on creativity, novelty, and potential to drive scientific discovery. To date, the Institute has awarded $30 million to 108 investigators at 55 academic medical centers across 22 states.
More than 65 percent of LRI-funded researchers have gone on to win extended funding from the NIH to further pursue their work, including:
• Betty Diamond, MD, at the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research (North Shore-LIJ Health System) in New York. The LRI funded Dr. Diamond’s initial work on the role of stress hormones in allowing toxic antibodies to penetrate the brain in lupus and destroy nerve cells there, causing memory loss, confusion, and other cognitive problems. She went on to receive an NIH program grant for $6.5 million to build on strategies to deal with this devastating development.
• Marcus Clark, MD, at the University of Chicago. With LRI funding, Dr. Clark showed that the kidneys of people with lupus actually contain the activated B cells that directly promote inflammation and damage in these critical organs. The NIH provided an additional $1.7 million to further explain and expand on this major discovery. “This government grant was funded based entirely on research supported by the LRI,” Dr. Clark said.
• Greg E. Lemke, PhD, at La Jolla, California’s Salk Institute for Biologic Studies. Dr. Lemke proposed the novel idea that a curious family of “TAM” receptors might function as a core ‘control switch’ over the immune system’s inflammatory response. He received an additional $1.4 million from the NIH and others to explore exciting new approaches to shutting down the uncontrolled inflammation of lupus by restoring immune system regulation. “Without the LRI, this project would have stopped—and a fundamental discovery in immunology would not have happened,” Dr. Lemke said.
“What an incredible investment the LRI has been,” said LRI Co-Chairman Robert J. Ravitz. “It has paid off in a decade of stellar return on results that matter for people with lupus, and my wife and I now have such hope that our daughter Annie and millions of others will soon have answers on how to stop lupus.”
LRI President Margaret G. Dowd added, “We are very grateful to our supporters for believing and investing in LRI’s powerful research model for breakthroughs in lupus. Their bold commitment is enabling innovative science to successfully blaze the path to a cure and a hope-filled new decade for people with this devastating disease.”
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