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Marilyn Allen

Marilyn Allen

2018 Gina M. Finzi Memorial Student Fellow

University of Maryland, Baltimore County
Study Title: Nanoparticle Encapsulated Antimalarial Drugs for Improved Lupus Nephritis Treatment
Mentor: Gregory L. Szeto, PhD

About the Researcher

Marilyn graduated with her Bachelor’s in Science in Chemical and Biological Engineering from Tufts University. She is now a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County in the Chemical and Biochemical Engineering program. She conducts research in Dr. Gregory Szeto’s Laboratory and her project is a continuation of her 2018 Gina M. Finzi Memorial Student Summer Fellowship Award.  

Outside of lab, Marilyn participates as a Lupus Foundation of America Ambassador. Recently, she participated in the 2019 Walk to End Lupus Now - Baltimore event as a walker where she raised over $500 to support lupus research and improve public awareness of the disease. 

Summary from Allen’s Research Proposal 

Lupus is an autoimmune disease that attacks the body’s healthy tissues and causes organ damage. 60% of lupus patients will develop nephritis, a complication characterized by kidney inflammation and, if left untreated, kidney failure. We propose to treat lupus nephritis by loading antimalarial drugs in microscopic capsules targeting specific immune cells that cause disease progression. Antimalarials, such as hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil) and chloroquine (Aralen), are the most commonly prescribed steroid-free medication for lupus patients. They are safe for pregnant women with rare, mild side effects. They work by inhibiting the processes that cause inflammation to help control lupus patients’ overactive immune system. A limitation of antimalarials is requirement for up to 3+ months of doses before the drug is fully active, and that the drug may still be unable to reverse damage done to the kidneys by nephritis. In that case, highly toxic drugs that suppress the immune system are added to antimalarial treatments. By loading antimalarials in capsules that target immune cells that play a role in worsening nephritis, we expect to increase the onset of active drug, limit toxicity, reduce lupus nephritis symptoms, and decrease the antimalarial dose normally prescribed to lupus nephritis patients.

Presentations and Conferences

2019 Biomedical Engineering Society Annual Meeting, Philadelphia, PA, October 2019 (Oral presentation)

2019 IMMUNOLOGY, San Diego, CA, May 2019 (Poster presentation)

Autumn Immunology Conference, Chicago, IL, November 2018 (Oral and poster presentation)    

Learn more about research funded by the Lupus Foundation of America

For more information on Lupus Foundation on America’s granted research, please contact Ashley Marion at