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LRI Announces 2009 Novel Research Grants

Two LA-Area Grants in the $3.6 Million Awarded to Drive Innovative Science in Lupus and Autoimmunity

Monday, December 7, 2009

The Lupus Research Institute (LRI) today named 12 new grant recipients for 2009, two of them to scientists in southern California. 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:

“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.

Funding for Researchers in Southern California

Steven Bensinger, VMD, PhD, at UCLA, has a $300 grant to probe why people with lupus have more than a 50-fold increased risk for cardiovascular problems such as accelerated atherosclerosis. In pursuing the novel concept that a protein called the "Liver X Receptor" (LXR)—already a well-known player in promoting atherosclerosis and inflammation—may also contribute to the accelerated atherosclerosis of lupus, he may uncover a role for LXR as a novel drug target for preventing and treating this very serious complication.

And at Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, Changchun Xiao, PhD has a $300K grant to analyze genes that likely play a role in orchestrating immune system tolerance that appears to break down in lupus and other autoimmune diseases, focusing specifically on an exciting newly discovered class of regulators of gene expression called microRNAs. Nationwide, the $3.6 million in awards 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

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