February, 2012

Lupus Research Institute Awards $3.6 Million for New Studies to Forge Innovative Discovery in Lupus

Knowing your interest in lupus, we are pleased to share that a new group of scientists, the  Lupus Research Institute (LRI) Class of 2012, is off and running, charged with jumpstarting innovation in lupus by pursuing creative and cutting-edge studies. Pushing lupus research forward dramatically, half of our investigators will work directly with patients using their blood cells, genetic information, and brain images to answer fundamental questions about the lupus immune system that was previously only studied in animal models. Click here to read the official press release.

LRI Research Makes an Impact

An unprecedented 106 applications went through rigorous peer-review involving LRI’s scientific advisors and over 90 lupus experts nationwide; a total of $3.6 million was granted. The 12 award-winning projects represent the best of the best, with potential to open new directions and accelerate development of new approaches to treatment, diagnosis -- and a cure.

“The funded studies represent very novel research to address the causes of lupus and translate this information into new treatment approaches to reduce the impact of lupus on patients and improve their quality of life,” said LRI Scientific Advisory David Pisetsky, MD, PhD, Duke University Medical Center.  "The range of approaches is impressive, indicating that the LRI has been highly successful in engaging the scientific community in the research effort against lupus.” 

“The LRI is very proud to be in the forefront affording the most talented researchers from a range of disciplines the freedom to explore creative out-of-the-box thinking based on sound science,” said Margaret Dowd, LRI President and CEO. “Our success in driving pivotal discoveries proves that openness to inventive science works.”

According to Dr. Pisetsky, two human studies in particular may have the most immediate impact on patient care. Dr. Mariana Kaplan's research on abnormalities in lipids among lupus patients may lead to the development of biomarkers to predict and monitor treatment of cardiovascular disease, one of the most common causes of death in young women with lupus. Dr. Meggan Mackay is trying to develop new techniques for imaging disturbances to the nervous system, another very common consequence of lupus that causes trouble with memory and thinking clearly. Her work may uncover better approaches to predict at risk patients, diagnose and treat nervous system damage more effectively.

The links below provide further information on the projects led by Drs. Kaplan and Mackay as well as a third human study led by Dr. Sandra Wolin and nine fundamental research studies getting underway.

Human Studies

Understanding Organ Damage

Three investigators will be working with lupus patients to explore how the immune system damages specific organs that could lead to new therapies and tools for diagnosis.  

Laying Groundwork for Better B-cell Targeted Therapies

Three LRI investigators will work with patients to explore new theories on why B cells start producing autoantibodies against the body’s own cells and tissues and how this could be treated or prevented with future B cell-targeted therapies selected for each patient.

Animal Studies


Understanding the role of B cells is also the focus of an animal study by

Origins of Lupus Autoimmunity

Several investigators are bringing novel ideas on possible culprits causing autoimmunity. Understanding what makes the immune system turn the body against itself will be useful in identifying targets for treatment.

  • Dr. Hamit Malik, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center
  • Dr. Matthias Wabl, University of California, San Francisco
  • Dr. Yufeng Peng, University of Washington

Exploring New Treatment Strategies

Two investigators will use animal models to test highly original ideas on ways to curb the lupus immune system.

Full summaries of each study are available at lupusresearchinstitute.org.

About the LRI
The world’s leading private supporter of innovative research in lupus, the LRI champions scientific risk-taking in the hunt for solutions to this complex and dangerous autoimmune disease.

Lupus Research Institute
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e-mail: Lupus@LupusNY.org