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Research We Fund

Research is the key to solving the cruel mystery of lupus and ending its brutal impact.

The Lupus Foundation of America supports basic, clinical, epidemiological, behavioral, and translational lupus research in areas where there are gaps in scientific knowledge or areas that have not received adequate funding.

We recently supported these investigators.

Grants to Organizations
SLICC - Systemic Lupus International Collaborating Clinics

SLICC is an international group dedicated to clinical research on lupus. In 2017, we began a collaboration with SLICC to study steroid damage at different doses. The goal of this project is to develop clinical guidelines for steroid dosing for lupus. Steroids are used frequently in the treatment of lupus, however, the side effects of higher doses of the medication can be significant.

Project Title: Glucocorticoid Dose and Exposure Time and Organ Damage in Patients with Systemic Lupus Erythematosus

Principal Investigator: Anselm Mak, MD, Medical University of Singapore

CARRA - Childhood Arthritis and Rheumatology Research Alliance

CARRA works to improve research aimed at finding the cause and cure for childhood rheumatic diseases. In 2017, the Lupus Foundation of America committed to a multi-year partnership to support CARRA. In the first year of the project, CARRA will develop a research agenda for childhood lupus that will ultimately aim to identify the top priorities needed in this field.

Project Title: Development of a Childhood Lupus Research Agenda

Principal Investigators: Aimee Hersh, MD, University of Utah; CARRA SLE Committee Chair
Andrea Knight, MD, MSCE, University of Toronto; CARRA SLE Committee Vice-Chair

Grants by Topic
Clinical Trial of Stem Cells in Lupus

We are providing nearly $4 million to support a five-year, first-of-its-kind clinical trial in the United States to evaluate adult mesenchymal stem cells (MSC) as a treatment for lupus. The phase II trial will enroll 81 individuals with lupus whose disease is not responding to current therapies. This study marks a bold step forward in lupus research and could diminish the long-term effects of lupus, help lower medication dosage, stop damage to vital organs, and save lives.

Project Title: A Phase II Sequential Dose Escalation Study Evaluating the Safety and Feasibility of Allogenic Umbilical Cord Derived Mesenchymal Stem Cells for the Treatment of Adults with Treatment Refractory Lupus

Principal Investigators:
PI Gary S. Gilkeson, MD, Medical University of South Carolina
Co-PI, Diane Kamen, MD, Medical University of South Carolina

CDAI - Collective Data Analysis Initiative

The LFA CDAI initiative is a collaboration among multiple companies to improve lupus clinical trials. Since its inception in 2009, LFA CDAI has published important findings identifying trends and new insights to improve lupus clinical trials. The current LFA CDAI analysis project builds upon this work.

Project Title: An Integrated Analysis of Data from Placebo Group’s Participation in Multi-Center Clinical Trials for Lupus

Principal Investigator: Mimi Kim, ScD, Albert Einstein College of Medicine

Michael Jon Barlin Pediatric Research Program
About the Program

In 2006, we established the Michael Jon Barlin Pediatric Research Program with the generous support of the Wallace H. Coulter Foundation, in memory of Michael Jon Barlin, who passed away at the age of 24 following a long battle with lupus. With those funds, we became the first and only lupus organization in the United States with a dedicated childhood lupus research agenda. Through this program, we provide funding to facilitate childhood lupus research in areas where there is the greatest need, including kidney disease, quality of life, and neuropsychiatric disease.

Novel Pilot Therapeutic Approaches in Childhood Lupus Award (NPTACLA)

In 2018, we created the Novel Pilot Therapeutic Approaches in Childhood Lupus Award (NPTACLA) as part of the Michael Jon Barlin Pediatric Lupus Research Program. The 2018 recipient of the NPTACLA is Anne Stevens, MD, PhD, Seattle Children’s Hospital. Dr. Stevens is testing new approaches to treatment for children with lupus, including testing the safety of a medicine that was FDA-approved for cancer decades ago – the first biologic treatment for cancer, called interleukin-2 (IL-2).

Project Title: A Phase I Open-Label, Dose-Escalation Study to Evaluate the Safety and Tolerability of Subcutaneous Low-Dose Interleukin-2 in Pediatric Onset Systemic Lupus Erythematosus
Principal Investigator: Anne Stevens, MD, PhD, Seattle Children’s Hospital

Biomarker for Lupus Nephritis

Our Michael Jon Barlin Pediatric Lupus Research Program also is supporting a project led by Kathleen Sullivan, MD, MPH, The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Dr. Sullivan is researching HER2, a gene that can play a role in the development of breast cancer and investigating whether it can anticipate flares in children with lupus. Results of this research may lead to real-time evaluation of disease activity.

Project Title: Urinary HER2 as a Biomarker for Lupus Nephritis
Principal Investigator: Kathleen Sullivan, MD, MPH, The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia

Career Development Award
About the Award

The Gary S. Gilkeson Career Development Award (CDA) provides funding to rheumatology, nephrology, and dermatology fellows who are interested in the most critical areas of lupus research.The CDA aims to reduce the future shortage of lupus researchers by supporting these fellows at a critical and challenging time in their careers – when they must make difficult decisions about their future paths. If we don’t support scientists in the lupus research field, we won’t have the knowledge, studies and advances needed to care for individuals living with this complex disease.

2018 Recipients

Paul Hoover, MD, Brigham & Women’s Hospital 

Project Title: Dissecting the Role of Myeloid Cells in Lupus Nephritis 

Joyce Chang, MD, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia 

Project Title: Attenuated Nocturnal Blood Pressure Dipping and Subclinical Atherosclerosis in Child-Onset Lupus

Gina M. Finzi Memorial Student Fellowship
About the Fellowship Program

The Gina M. Finzi Memorial Student Summer Fellowship Program is designed to cultivate a life-long interest in lupus research in young scientists and build the next generation of researchers. The fellowship has supported nearly 200 students who have gone on to further success in the fight against lupus, including producing several publications in peer-reviewed journals.

2019 Recipients

Philip Carlucci

New York University School of Medicine
Study Title: The natural killer cell ligand polymorphism HLA-C Asn80Lys and lupus nephritis.
Mentor: Robert Clancy, Ph.D., Professor, New York School of Medicine

Lin Chen

Brigham and Women’s Hospital
Study Title: Ptprz: Impact on Tubules and Macrophage Mediated Lupus
Mentor: Vicki Rubin Kelley, Ph.D Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School

Erica Crosley

Emory School of Medicine
Study Title: Understanding Latino Lupus Patients’ Education Needs via Mixed-Methods Analysis of the Spanish-speaking Facebook Page “Hablemos de Lupus” (“Let’s talk about Lupus”)
Mentor: Christina Drenkard, MD., Ph.D., Associate Professor of Medicine and Epidemiology, Division of Rheumatology, Emory School of Medicine

Erica Moore

Albert Einstein College of Medicine
Study Title: The Pathogenic Role of T Cells in Neuropsychiatric Systemic Lupus Erythematosus
Mentor: Chaim Putterman, MD, Chief and Program Director, Division of Rheumatology, Professor of Medicine and Microbiology & Immunology, Albert Einstein College of Medicine

Kathryn Wierenga

Michigan State University
Study Title: Unraveling How Omega-3 Fatty Acids Suppress Lupus Flaring
Mentor: James Pestka, Ph.D., Professor, Michigan State University

Thomas Winans

SUNY Upstate Medical University
Study Title: The Effects of Rab4A Q72L Knock-In Mutation on Interferons I/II Receptors, Behavior and Brain Metabolome in a Mouse Model
Mentor: Andras Perl, M.D. Ph.D., SUNY Distinguished Professor, Departments of Medicine, Microbiology, and Immunology, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Chief, Division of Rheumatology

2018 Recipients

Marilyn Allen, University of Maryland, Baltimore County 

Study Title: Nanoparticle Encapsulated Antimalarial Drugs for Improved Lupus Nephritis Treatment
Mentor: Gregory L. Szeto, PhD

Rachel Nelson, Yale School of Medicine

Study Title: Modulation of Antiphospholipid Antibody-Induced Trophoblast Inflammatory Response by Infectious Components
Mentor: Vikki M. Abrahams, PhD

Jennifer Ra, Washington University School of Medicine

Study Title: Virtual Support: The Key to Bringing Social Support into the Home for Patients with SLE 
Mentor:  Alfred H.J. Kim, MD, PhD

Alanna Hirz, The University of California

Study Title: Measuring Resilience as a Key Psychosocial Indicator for Women with Systemic Lupus Erythematosus 
Mentor: Perry Nicassio, PhD

Mitra Moazzami, University Health Network/University of Toronto

Study Title: Validity and Reliability of Patient-Reported Outcomes Measurement Information System (PROMIS) in Systemic Lupus Erythematosus 
Mentor: Zahi Touma, MD, PhD

Jagan Sivakumaran, University Health Network/University of Toronto

Study Title: Assessment of the QRISK3, SLE Cardiovascular Risk Equation, Modified Framingham and Framingham Risk Calculators as Predictors for Development of Atherosclerotic Cardiovascular Disease in Patients with Systemic Lupus Erythematosus
Mentor: Zahi Touma, MD, PhD