May. 17, 2018

Department of Defense Announces Lupus Research Program Awardees

Lupus Foundation of America congratulates grant recipients

The Department of Defense (DOD) today announced the award of nearly $5 million to 13 innovative and impactful lupus research projects through its new Lupus Research Program.

The Lupus Foundation of America and its advocates led a multi-year effort and worked with Congress to establish the Lupus Research Program in 2017. The program aims to fund research that will advance the field, and lead to breakthroughs in the causes of lupus, its diagnosis and the development of new medicines to prevent and treat the disease. Recipients of the program’s grant awards represent the proposals ranked highest by a peer-reviewed process in a competitive field of 121 high-quality applications.

“We’re excited to see the Lupus Research Program moving forward with funding critical new research studies that will improve our understanding of the disease and lead to new treatments for our military heroes and all people living with this cruel and potentially fatal disease,” said Stevan Gibson, President of the Lupus Foundation of America. “This is truly a significant moment as the Lupus Foundation of America and our advocates spent 14 years working tirelessly to establish the Lupus Research Program and also have been heavily involved in setting the strategic direction and priorities for this new dedicated funding stream for lupus research.”

Through its award mechanisms, the Lupus Research Program selected six recipients for its Concept Award and seven research programs for its Impact Award. The Concept Award supports the exploration of highly innovative new concepts or untested theories that address important issues in lupus. The Impact Award encourages applications that support the full spectrum of research projects or ideas that specifically focus on scientific and clinical lupus issues, which, if successfully addressed, have the potential to make a major impact in lupus research.

The Lupus Research Program is designed to fund high-impact research into the disease that is not already being conducted by the National Institutes of Health, Department of Veterans’ Affairs, or any other government agency. Emerging research indicates that our military veterans may be at a greater risk of developing lupus and other autoimmune diseases. Factors common to military service, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), vaccines, chemical and toxin exposures, ultraviolet light, and infectious agents have been associated with the development of lupus.

The Lupus Foundation of America was the first organization to work toward securing a lupus-specific program at the DOD beginning in 2003 when it advocated to include lupus research as part of the DOD’s Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program. The Foundation also spearheaded the effort to create the Congressional Lupus Caucus, a group of nearly 60 U.S. Representatives who are championing the fight against lupus on Capitol Hill and who played a pivotal role in creating and securing funding for the Lupus Research Program. To date, the DOD has provided more than $31 million for lupus research, including $10 million appropriated by Congress for the Lupus Research Program in FY 2017 and FY 2018. 

The Lupus Research Program is guided by a vision to cure lupus through a partnership of scientists, clinicians, and consumers. The program’s funding is provided on a competitive grant basis and projects are peer reviewed. Two of the Lupus Foundation of America’s medical advisors and a past board chair are serving on the programmatic panel, which sets the direction for the programs and helps to make funding decisions. In addition, the Foundation nominated seven individuals living with lupus to serve as consumer reviewers, bringing their perspectives to research projects that applied for funding.

Researcher  Organization Award Mechanism
Karen Cerosaletti  Benaroya Research Institute at Virginia Mason Impact Award
Alexander Szalai  University of Alabama at Birmingham Impact Award
Montserrat Anguera  University of Pennsylvania Impact Award
Joan Merrill  Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation Impact Award
Laura Plantinga  Emory University Concept Award
Ziaur Rahman  Pennsylvania State University, Milton S. Hershey Medical Center Concept Award
Adam Lacy-Hulbert  Benaroya Research Institute at Virginia Mason Impact Award
Betsy Barnes  Feinstein Institute for Medical Research Impact Award
Fabienne Mackay  University of Melbourne Concept Award
Caroline Jefferies  Cedars-Sinai Medical Center Impact Award
Eric Meffre  Yale University Concept Award
R. Looney  University of Rochester Concept Award
Mark DiFrancesco  Children's Hospital, Cincinnati Concept Award