Changing the Field
Recognizing that most medical breakthroughs come from unexpected directions and new perspectives, the LRI has aimed to fund scientists with the most promising hypotheses, regardless of whether they have conducted lupus research in the past.
By planting the seeds of lupus research across a new group of scientists, the potential for future innovation and discovery in lupus research continues to grow rapidly.
Growing Lupus Research
In fact, 40 percent of LRI-funded investigators (30 out of 75) had not conducted lupus research. Many were leading molecular or cell biologists who had not previously examined autoimmune disease.
Sparked by their LRI research, 80 percent (24 of 30) have continued to work on lupus after the completion of their LRI grant, with many shifting the focus of their labs entirely to lupus. Barbara Vilen, PhD’s (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill) previous work had focused on understanding the basic molecular mechanisms of B-cells —the cells that make antibodies. After receiving her 2001 LRI grant, Dr. Vilen provided fundamental new insights into how B-cells malfunction in lupus and attack the body’s own cells and molecules. Lupus is now the primary focus for Dr. Vilen and the six members of her research group. She has obtained $2.8 million in NIH funding to continue the work originating from her LRI study.