Leading Lupus Researchers Recognized for Exceptional Work in the Field
The Lupus Foundation of America (LFA) announced today the recipients of its most prestigious annual awards, recognizing three leading lupus scientists. This year, the LFA presented the Evelyn V. Hess Award to Joan T. Merrill, MD, Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation (OMRF) and the Mary Betty Stevens Young Investigator Prize to Andrea Knight, MD, MSCE Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) and Jason S. Knight, MD, PhD, University of Michigan. Both awards are selected through a peer-reviewed process, and this year’s Mary Betty Stevens Young Investigator Prize resulted in a tie between two scientists.
Honoring Dr. Merrill for Transformative Lupus Research and Dedication to the Field
The Evelyn V. Hess Award was established in 2006 and is given annually to recognize the exceptional contributions of a clinical or basic researcher whose body of work has advanced the understanding of the science of lupus treatment.
Dr. Merrill, member of the Arthritis & Clinical Immunology Research Program at OMRF, and Lupus Foundation of America Chief Advisor, Clinical Development, is being recognized for her tireless contributions over nearly 30 years that have expanded the understanding of lupus and have had a profound impact on improving lupus clinical trial design. She has built a research cohort of more than 650 lupus patient volunteers at OMRF, authored over 270 peer-reviewed publications and been cited over 15,000 times.
Dr. Merrill is highly regarded for her focus on developing new approaches to evaluating patient progress in clinical trials and spearheading transformative changes in clinical trials to link clinical changes to biomarkers and improve data accuracy that could lead to new and effective treatments for lupus.
“It’s the greatest honor of my life to receive the Evelyn V. Hess Award from the Lupus Foundation of America,” said Dr. Merrill. “Lupus is a lifelong illness that can be life-threatening and over time leads to huge medical expenses, formidable challenges to careers and family life, and progressive damage to the body. It frequently impacts people of color and those in underserved medical populations who deserve far more attention than they get. It’s an incredibly meaningful medical frontier to be a part of, and as we learn more about lupus we learn more about the mysteries of the immune system which will help us discover safer and more effective treatments.”
Recognizing Dr. Andrea Knight and Dr. Jason Knight for Their Contributions to Lupus Research
Established in 2009, the annual Mary Betty Stevens Young Investigator Prize recognizes the remarkable accomplishments of an investigator in the early stages of their lupus career and memorializes Dr. Stevens’ outstanding contributions to lupus research throughout her career.
Dr. Andrea Knight, pediatric rheumatologist at the Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids), assistant professor at the University of Toronto, Canada, and Lupus Foundation of America Medical-Scientific Advisory Council member, focuses her research on improving the lives of young people with childhood-onset systemic lupus erythematosus (cSLE) and the impact of it on the developing brain.
“It is a privilege to have the opportunity to do research to help improve the lives of those living with lupus and their families, and I am humbled to receive the Mary Betty Stevens Young Investigator Prize,” shared Dr. Andrea Knight. “Lupus is a challenging disease, and this is particularly true for children with lupus who deal with the disease as they develop. While we have made progress in lupus research, there is still lots of work to be done – particularly in pediatric lupus research, and it’s an honor to be a part of it.”
Dr. Jason Knight, associate professor, University of Michigan, has made significant contributions to research on lupus and cardiovascular complications caused by the disease including antiphospholipid syndrome (APS), which causes blood clots.
“The Lupus Foundation of America has always prioritized research that matters to people living with this disease, and that is what makes this award such an honor,” shared Dr. Jason Knight. “It only takes one day with a patient to realize how different lupus is in one person to the next, and yet we only have a handful of treatments to manage the disease. It’s exciting and energizing to imagine being a part of the day of truly personalized and proactive medicine for lupus.”