Eisai and Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation Launch Lupus Research Collaboration

Ines Martins, PhD avatar

by Ines Martins, PhD |

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Eisai, ORMF will study genetics of lupus

The Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation (OMRF), an independent non-profit biomedical research institute, will enter a new research collaboration with Eisai, an oncology and neurology-oriented pharmaceutical, to study the genetics of lupus.

In lupus patients, the immune system becomes unbalanced and attacks the body’s own tissues. This might lead to damage in the joints, skin, kidneys and lungs, among other parts and organs of the body.


Patrick Gaffney
Credit: Ryan Stewart (OMRF)

According to the collaboration’s terms, OMRF’s Arthritis and Clinical Immunology Research Program member Patrick Gaffney, MD, will work with Eisai’s Andover innovative Medicines (AiM) Institute team – a research and development innovation unit consisting of 90 scientists – to study the role of certain genes and how they affect the human immune response in lupus patients.

Gaffney and his lab staff will examine lupus patient samples for mutations in particular genes involved in immunity, using advanced DNA sequencing technology, to assess how they might affect the course of autoimmune disease. Using Gaffney’s genetic sequencing data, Eisai will look for genes that might inhibit or suppress the function of certain molecules in lupus, and to identify patients more likely to respond to a particular treatment course.

“Genetically-guided clinical trials are of significant precedence now, and if we can understand the genetic molecules at work in these lupus pathways, these studies may tell us whether or not a drug will work,” said Gaffney in a press release. “This is precision medicine: Tailoring the best and most effective treatments for patients and reducing the amount of trial and error in prescribing medications,” he said.

Gaffney specializes in the study of the genetics of autoimmune diseases. His lab has led several genome-wide association studies that have contributed to broaden our understanding of lupus-associated genes, among others. With this new collaboration, the parties intend to create new ways to help physicians deliver the most effective treatments available to their patients.

“We believe that in-depth statistical and biological characterization of naturally occurring genetic variants in certain genes will provide valuable insight in our efforts to pharmacologically target the pathways to treat lupus,” said Janna Hutz, PhD, Head of Human Biology & Data Science at the Eisai AiM Institute. “By using human genetics as a tool to navigate the rich lupus patient data gathered by OMRF, we hope to sharply focus the design of future Eisai clinical trials in this area,” she said.

“Every drug has side effects, and information that we’re seeking, along with a patient’s genetic profile, could help physicians know when to increase or taper medications they give their patients,” Gaffney concluded.