Sep. 30, 2014

Foundation Announces Pediatric Lupus Research Grantee & LIFELINE Grant Program™ Recipients

The Lupus Foundation of America, the only national force dedicated to solving the cruel mystery of lupus, announced four grants that will allow lupus investigators to continue critical lupus research. Another grant will be used to develop a groundbreaking diagnostic tool for children with lupus-related kidney inflammation, or lupus nephritis.

The Lupus Foundation of America’s LIFELINE Grant Program™ will provide a year’s worth of salary support for faculty who experience a gap in external funding for a specific, previously funded study due to the decreased funding available from government sources. The award is intended to keep an investigator’s project on track while they reapply for larger federal grants.

The recipients are:

  • Betty Tsao, Ph.D., Professor of Medicine, The Regents of the University of California, Los Angeles, California. This grant is presented in memory of Kassie McMullin Biglow. Dr. Tsao will study two genes that have been recently identified to greatly increase the risk for lupus in Europeans and Asians and how these genes cause lupus;
  • Jill Buyon, M.D., Director, Division of Rheumatology, New York University School of Medicine, New York, New York. This grant is the 2014 Lucy Vodden Research Grant Award, established in memory of Lucy Vodden by the Lupus Foundation of America and Julian Lennon. Dr. Buyon’s study will evaluate whether hydroxychloroquine may prevent the development of congenital heart block, an irreversible and life-threatening condition, in infants born to women with lupus;
  • Diane Kamen, M.D., Associate Professor of Medicine, Director of Clinical Research, Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston, South Carolina. This grant is presented in honor of The Cooper Family Foundation. Dr. Kamen will investigate whether microbes in the gut are capable of contributing to the development of lupus in African Americans with a genetic predisposition for the disease, and;
  • Mark J. Mamula, Ph.D., Professor of Medicine, Yale University, New Haven, CT. This grant is made possible in part by funds provided by Lupus Foundation of America Connecticut Chapter. Dr. Mamula will investigate how certain modifications to proteins found in one’s own body leads to autoimmunity.

“We are seeing too many lupus investigators leave the research field because of lack of funding,” said Gary S. Gilkeson, M.D., Professor of Medicine/Microbiology and Immunology at the Medical University of South Carolina, and Chair of the Lupus Foundation of America Medical-Scientific Advisory Council. “Scientific findings have placed us on the brink of breakthroughs at a time when federal funds—the largest funds available for lupus research—are disappearing leaving investigators with no options but to pursue other career paths.  This funding gap is impacting some of the best lupus researchers.  The Lupus Foundation of America’s LIFELINE Grant Program provides critical funding to keep lupus investigators working to solve the cruel mystery of lupus.”    

The Foundation also announced that Kathleen Sullivan, M.D., Ph.D., Professor of Pediatrics, Division Chief, Allergy and Immunology, The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, has been awarded a grant through the Foundation’s Michael Jon Barlin Pediatric Research Program to develop a novel panel of lupus nephritis biomarkers in children. This will facilitate the development of a real-time, non-invasive diagnostic tool for pediatric lupus nephritis and allow for more targeted treatment decisions and more personalized care for children with pediatric lupus nephritis.

“Lupus in children tends to be more severe than in adults and often involves multiple organ systems, including the kidneys,” said Dr. Gilkeson. “There is a need for the development of a diagnostic tool that could dramatically improve the quality of life for tens of thousands of children living with lupus nephritis.”

Up to 80 percent of children and adolescents with lupus will develop lupus nephritis which, if not adequately controlled, can lead to kidney failure, the need for chronic dialysis or kidney transplantation, and even death. Up to 40 percent of children with lupus nephritis may develop end-stage renal disease -- permanent failure of the kidneys.

This multi-year grant is made possible through the generous support of the Wallace H. Coulter Foundation, in memory of Michael Jon Barlin. This grant is also made possible in part by funds provided by The Louis Berkowitz Family Foundation and the Lupus Foundation of America Philadelphia Tri-State Chapter through the generous support of the Scott James Exler Fund for Pediatric Lupus of The Philadelphia Foundation.

In evaluating submitted applications, the Lupus Foundation of America employs a rigorous, peer-review system that utilizes the same method for review as other major funders of medical research such as National Institutes of Health.

About Lupus

Lupus is an unpredictable and misunderstood autoimmune disease that ravages different parts of the body.  It is difficult to diagnose, hard to live with and a challenge to treat.  Lupus is a cruel mystery because it is hidden from view and undefined, has a range of symptoms, strikes without warning, and has no known cause and no known cure.  Its health effects can range from a skin rash to a heart attack.  Lupus is debilitating and destructive and can be fatal, yet research on lupus remains underfunded relative to diseases of similar scope and devastation.  

About the Lupus Foundation of America Peer Reviewed Research Program

The Lupus Foundation of America is dedicated to addressing scientific issues that have obstructed basic, clinical, epidemiological, behavioral and translational lupus research for decades. Our research grant program focuses its support in areas of research where significant gaps in scientific knowledge about lupus exist, and where other public and private organizations are not focusing their efforts. The program supports growth in the field during a time when federal government funding opportunities are limited. Through our peer reviewed lupus research program, the Foundation directly funds lupus investigators to conduct studies in areas identified by our Medical-Scientific Advisory Council. 

The Foundation is the only national organization to launch the first-ever pediatric lupus research program, which was established in 2006 with the generous support of the Wallace H. Coulter Foundation. Over the years, the research funded through this program has allowed for significant headway in helping to advance the science and understanding of pediatric lupus. Learn more about the Foundation’s Peer-Reviewed Research Program at lupus.org/research.