by Karyn Hede
It was 2001, immunologist Barbara Vilen's first full year as an assistant professor at the University of North Carolina (UNC), Chapel Hill's School of Medicine and she had already earned a seed grant from the Lupus Research Institute (LRI), a patient-funded research foundation. Each year, LRI grant recipients gather to report results and exchange ideas not only with other scientists but also with patients. At Vilen's first such meeting, she noticed one lupus patient listening intently to each talk. At the end of the meeting, the patient presented a check to the foundation--a tangible result of a year of door-to-door fundraising in her community.