May. 30, 2013

Dr. Mark J. Shlomchik Selected as the First Recipient of the Lupus Insight Prize

WASHINGTON, DC  -- Mark J. Shlomchik, M.D., Ph.D., the Chair of Immunology at the University of Pittsburgh, has been selected as the first recipient of the Lupus Insight Prize. The first-of-a-kind award provides $200,000 for use in innovative research on lupus, an unpredictable and sometimes fatal autoimmune disease that affects an estimated 1.5 million Americans.

The Prize is a collaborative initiative among the Alliance for Lupus Research (ALR), the Lupus Foundation of America (LFA), and the Lupus Research Institute (LRI) to recognize and honor the achievements of an outstanding investigator in the field, and whose research efforts have a high likelihood of generating further advances in understanding of the causes, biology, treatments, or cure of lupus.

Dr. Shlomchik received the Prize on June 27, 2013 during a formal ceremony at FOCIS 2013, the 13th Annual Meeting of the Federation of Clinical Immunology Societies in Boston, where scientists will present their findings on lupus and other diseases affecting the immune system.

With the award funds, Dr. Shlomchik will investigate the connection between the death of neutrophils, the body’s most abundant white blood cells, and lupus. Many researchers believe lupus is the result of an abnormal immune response to dying cells. To fight infections, neutrophils use a molecule called NADPH oxidase. It was thought that this molecule, however, may cause these neutrophils to die in a way that promotes an autoimmune response.

However, to the surprise of most lupus researchers, Dr. Shlomchik discovered that lupus-prone mice that are missing this gene, have markedly worse disease—the opposite of the original theory. With the award funds, Dr. Shlomchik will create new animal models of lupus that produce neutrophils lacking NADPH oxidase to test how this molecule prevents animals from developing severe lupus. Because NADPH oxidase is turned on by infections, the work could help us understand the role infections might play in triggering lupus. Learn more about Dr. Shlomchik's research.

“I have dedicated my entire career to solving the problem of lupus. This award will enable me to take one of the most creative and innovative steps in my journey to have an impact on understanding and treating this difficult disease,” said Dr. Shlomchik in response to the award announcement. “I am tremendously honored to receive this award that has been initiated cooperatively by these three outstanding lupus advocacy and research organizations.”

Dr. Shlomchik was chosen to receive the Lupus Insight Prize by an independent review committee composed of leading lupus scientific leaders from across the country and representatives of the three lupus organizations. The selection committee based the award on a variety of criteria, including academic achievements, creativity, insight, and potential for future advances that will improve the lives of people with lupus.

“I am thrilled to see the culmination of the collaborative efforts of the Alliance for Lupus Research, the Lupus Foundation of America, and the Lupus Research Institute on the development of this important prize with the selection of Mark Shlomchik as the first recipient,” said Mary Crow, M.D., Chair of the Scientific Advisory Board of the Alliance for Lupus Research. “As we recognize Dr. Shlomchik's career-long efforts to characterize the immune system alterations that contribute to lupus, we can look forward to future advances that improve the lives of lupus patients, she said.”

Gary Gilkeson, M.D., Chair of the Lupus Foundation of America’s Medical-Scientific Advisory Council, noted the important contribution of Dr. Shlomchik’s work in expanding scientific understanding of lupus. “The origins of lupus are not well defined. He has been involved in almost every recent advance in the understanding of lupus. Dr. Shlomchik’s work advances the understanding and treatment of this very complex disease.”

Lupus Research Institute’s Scientific Advisory Board member Peter Lipsky, M.D. commented, “The Lupus Insight Prize recognizes the novel insight of Dr. Shlomchik, who made the unexpected discovery that NADPH oxidase made by neutrophils reduces the progression of lupus. This insight provides a unique opportunity to develop new approaches for potential novel therapies for human lupus.”

Additional information about the Lupus Insight Prize and Dr. Shlomchik’s work in lupus are available online at www.lupusinsightprize.org.

About Lupus

Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disease that causes inflammation and tissue damage to any organ system in the body. The health effects of lupus include heart attacks, strokes, seizures, organ failure, and possible death. An estimated 1.5 million Americans and at least five million people worldwide have lupus.

About the Funding Organizations

For more information about the Alliance for Lupus Research, visit www.lupusresearch.org.

For more information about the Lupus Foundation of America, visit www.lupus.org.

For more information about the Lupus Research Institute, visit www.lupusresearchinstitute.org.

About FOCIS

FOCIS exists to improve human health through immunology by fostering interdisciplinary approaches to understand and treat immune-based diseases. FOCIS 2013 is the 13th Annual Meeting of the Federation of Clinical Immunology Societies in Boston, where scientists will present their findings on lupus and other diseases affecting the immune system. Thirty different specialties will be represented and over three hundred scientific papers will be presented.


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