LRI Announces 2009 Novel Research Grants

$3.6 Million Awarded to Drive Innovative Science in Lupus and Autoimmunity

The Lupus Research Institute (LRI) today named 12 new grant recipients for 2009. The awards, totaling $3.6 million, recognize innovative work across a broad spectrum of lupus research. All were selected for their creativity, novelty, and potential to drive scientific discovery to ultimately prevent, treat, and cure the complex disease of systemic lupus.

The 2009 grants go to both new and established lupus researchers across the nation and include interdisciplinary and highly promising investigations such as:

  • Testing a new way to monitor lupus nephritis (kidney inflammation) without intrusive and sometimes damaging biopsies via noninvasive MRI scans.
  • Pinpointing novel genes specifically associated with lupus in people of African-American ancestry-a population more commonly affected by lupus, and also far more likely to experience severe disease.
  • Taking the unconventional approach that nervous system networks modulate inflammation and can be targeted to limit damage to organs in lupus.

"For a decade, the LRI has dedicated itself to innovation and scientific risk-taking in search of new answers and treatments for lupus," said LRI President Margaret G. Dowd. "Recent advances in the corporate sector certainly have demonstrated the value and importance of bold innovation as the pathway to discovery in lupus."

Many of the 2009 grants are innovative studies in human lupus biology that work directly with human tissue in order to hasten the translation of the science into solid human outcomes, advancing the development of new therapies and filling a notable gap in the scientific field.

The $3.6 million in awards to 12 investigators nationwide brings the LRI's total investment for Novel Research Grants to $30 million to 102 investigators at 55 academic medical centers across 22 states.

"A grant from the LRI is known in immunology as very prestigious," said LRI researcher Christopher A.J. Roman, PhD, at the State University of New York Downstate Medical Center (Brooklyn). "Many are very risky grants. They may be built solely upon an idea, as opposed to considerable experimental evidence-which is normally needed for an NIH proposal. The scientists on the LRI Board have the vision, the foresight and experience to pick those research projects that will hopefully lead to a better understanding of the disease. And then from that, better treatments."

The 2009 LRI grant recipients:

Steven Bensinger, VMD, PhD
University of California, Los Angeles, CA
Linking lupus, cardiovascular disease and lipid metabolism

Hongbo Chi, PhD
St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, Memphis, TN
S1P1 receptor in regulatory T cells and lupus pathogenesis and therapy

Anne Davidson, MD
Feinstein Institute for Medical Research, Manhasset, NY
TNF antagonism in SLE

Hui-Chen Hsu, PhD
University of Alabama at Birmingham
Deletion of lupus autoreactive cells using an anti-hDR5 antibody

Timothy Niewold, MD
University of Chicago, Chicago, IL
Novel Genes Associated with African-American Lupus

Marko Radic, PhD
University of Tennessee Health Science Center, Memphis, TN
Stimulation of Autoreactive B Cells by Apoptotic Bodies

Jeffrey Rathmell, PhD
Duke University Medical Center, Durham, NC
Estrogen Related Receptor-Alpha and B cell Metabolism in SLE

Boris Reizis, PhD
Columbia University Medical Center, New York, NY
Molecular control of self-DNA recognition in lupus

Jane Salmon, MD
Hospital for Special Surgery, New York, NY
Cholinergic modulation of immune complex-mediated inflammatory responses

Daniel Stetson, PhD
University of Washington, Seattle, WA
Cell-Intrinsic Initiation of Autoimmunity in Lupus and Related Diseases

Joshua Thurman, MD
University of Colorado, Denver, CO
Non-Invasive Assessment of Lupus Nephritis

Changchun Xiao, PhD
Scripps Research Institute, La Jolla, CA
Functional Analysis of MicroRNAs in Systemic Immune Tolerance