Skip to main content

Department of Defense: Lupus Research Program

Providing more than $86 million for high-impact research on lupus

The Lupus Foundation of America led the fight to secure lupus research funding through the Department of Defense’s (DoD) Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program (CDMRP). To date, our efforts have generated more than $86 million to fund high-impact, high-quality research to identify ways to more effectively diagnose and treat lupus.

Just over a year after our advocacy efforts began in 2003, Congress first included lupus as an area eligible for funding through the Department of Defense’s Peer Reviewed Medical Research Program (PRMRP). The PRMRP is a sub-program of the CDMRP that provides grants to researchers around the world on topics determined each year by Congress. 

Between 2005 and 2016, thanks to the ongoing outreach of lupus advocates, Congress included lupus in the PRMRP. The program allocated more than $21 million to 22 different lupus research studies looking into every aspect of diagnosing and treating the disease.

Throughout this period, we continued to build the case for a research program dedicated specifically to lupus at the DoD. Such a program would mean more opportunities to fund lupus research that would benefit not only military personnel, but everyone with lupus. 

In May 2017, Congress responded to our advocacy by creating the Lupus Research Program and providing it with $5 million. 

Today, the Lupus Research Program is funding promising research by some of the most well-known, accomplished researchers in the world. Congress continues to recognize the importance of this program and has already provided it with $45 million. Supported by our advocates at every step of the way, this is the story of how we got here.

Research Funded by the Lupus Research Program

Building Support for the Lupus Research Program
Senate testimony

2009: CEO Sandra C. Raymond testified before the Senate Defense Subcommittee on the need for lupus research at DoD.

Lupus and the Military

2009: We authored and released Lupus and the Military, which explored the connection between America’s soldiers and lupus.

Ft. Detrick meeting

2010: Foundation representatives met with CDMRP officials at Ft. Detrick to discuss a lupus-specific research program at the DoD.

Congressional Lupus Caucus

2012: We led the creation of the Caucus, which would come to champion the Lupus Research Program.

Dear Colleague letter

2016: We worked with the Caucus to circulate a Dear Colleague letter, showing broad support for lupus-specific research at the DoD.

Lupus Research Program

2017: President Trump signed legislation creating the Lupus Research Program and funding it with $5 million in its first year.

Why is the Department of Defense supporting lupus research?

Congress established the CDMRP in 1992 because it recognized that maintaining and promoting the health of Department of Defense personnel was essential to the country’s national security. Any disease or condition that affects the American public will also affect the military, making medical research a priority for the Pentagon.

With the U.S. military more diverse than it has ever been, both in gender and in race, lupus will increasingly affect its members. Of the more than 1.5 million Americans living with lupus, it is estimated that 9 in 10 are women, and the disease is 2 to 3 times more common among women of color. Minority women tend to develop lupus at a younger age, experience more serious complications, and are more likely to die from the disease. 

In 2016, women represented 16% of all active duty service members, and 56% of those women were minorities. As the military becomes more diverse, more of their personnel will be affected by lupus.

People in the military are exposed to several factors that are associated with the development of lupus and other autoimmune diseases, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), chemicals and toxins, ultraviolet (UV) light, and certain drugs and infectious agents. Research funded by the Lupus Research Program will study these triggers and try to determine what effect they have on the immune system. 

Read our full 2009 report on lupus and the military.

How our advocacy supports the Lupus Research Program

Congressional funding is not keeping pace with current needs: in the Lupus Research Program’s first three years, for example, the DoD was able to fund only 38 of the 334 (less than 12%) high-quality applications they received.

Congress must appropriate funding for the Lupus Research Program every year. Because priorities can shift, it’s important to have advocates who are willing to tell their members of Congress how important this program is to people with lupus and their loved ones and why it deserves increased funding. 

Sign up to become an advocate, and we’ll let you know when your outreach in support of the Lupus Research Program can make an impact.

If you have lupus and served in the military, tell us your story! Your story will help us show Congress how lupus affects our military and that more must be done to understand the disease and accelerate the search for new treatments.

Since retirement, I have been an active lupus advocate, spreading awareness and sharing my story to help other lupus patients with their journey.
Toni Grimes, U.S. Army, Retired
Read her storyTell Your Story