Research We Fund
The Lupus Foundation of America supports basic, clinical, epidemiological, behavioral, and translational lupus research in areas where there are gaps in scientific knowledge or in areas that have not received adequate funding. Our approach to lupus research is innovative and addresses the root problems that interfere with progress and sets a course to solve them.
We focus on three critical goals: identify the causes of lupus, discover better ways to control symptoms, and, ultimately, find pathways to cure lupus.
We recently supported these research studies and initiatives.
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 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
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
PI Gary S. Gilkeson, MD, Medical University of South Carolina
Co-PI, Diane Kamen, MD, Medical University of South Carolina
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
The goal of the ALPHA Project is to bring together international lupus experts to develop and implement strategies to address the critical barriers toward improving outcomes in lupus. Through this Project, the international lupus community has reached the first-ever agreement on the barriers to lupus research, drug development, care and access. In January, 2020, A global advisory panel of lupus medical experts and people living with the disease met in Washington, DC to set bold new priorities in lupus drug development, clinical care and access to care. The Global Advisory Committee is now developing specific strategies to implement that will address the identified priorities on a global scale.
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.
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
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.
Emily Littlejohn, DO, MPH
Mentors: Emily Somers, Ph.D, ScM & Jinoos Yazdany, MD, MPH
Study: Longitudinal Antinuclear Antibodies titers from pre-clinical to clinical SLE
Emily Smitherman, MD
University of Alabama at Birmingham
Mentor: Aimee Hersh, MD, MS
Study: Evaluating Disease Activity Outcomes in Childhood-Onset Systemic Lupus Erythematosus
May Choi, MD, FRCPC
University of Calgary
Mentor: Karen Costenbader, MD, MPH
Study: LEAAPPS: Longitudinal Examination of ANA Associations, Prevalence, and Performance in SLE
Erik Anderson, MD
Feinstein Institute for Medical Research
Mentor: Meggan Mackay, MD, MS
Study: Tryptophan Pathway Activation by Interferon-alpha: Impact on Mood and Cognition in SLE
Joyce Chang, MD
Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia
Mentors: Andrea M. Knight, Pamela F. Weiss
Study: Attenuated Nocturnal Blood Pressure Dipping and Subclinical Atherosclerosis in Child-Onset Lupus
Paul Hoover, MD
Brigham & Women’s Hospital
Study: Dissecting the Role of Myeloid Cells in Lupus Nephritis
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.
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
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
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
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
Michigan State University
Study Title: Unraveling How Omega-3 Fatty Acids Suppress Lupus Flaring
Mentor: James Pestka, Ph.D., Professor, Michigan State University
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
University of Maryland, Baltimore County
Study Title: Nanoparticle Encapsulated Antimalarial Drugs for Improved Lupus Nephritis Treatment
Mentor: Gregory L. Szeto, PhD
Yale School of Medicine
Study Title: Modulation of Antiphospholipid Antibody-Induced Trophoblast Inflammatory Response by Infectious Components
Mentor: Vikki M. Abrahams, PhD
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
The University of California
Study Title: Measuring Resilience as a Key Psychosocial Indicator for Women with Systemic Lupus Erythematosus
Mentor: Perry Nicassio, PhD
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
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