The U.S. House of Representatives has passed a bill authorizing $5 million a year for new lupus research under the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program, operated by the Army Medical Research and Materiel Command in Ft. Detrick, Maryland.
The U.S. Senate will now consider the legislation. If passed, it will become law, allowing researchers across the country to further study the development of lupus and contribute to the discovery of new treatments.
The program resulted from the decade-long effort by the New York-based Lupus Research Alliance. One of the group’s first efforts was to include lupus among diseases whose research is funded by the Pentagon’s peer-reviewed Medical Research Program. This has cumulatively channeled more than $13 million into lupus research since the program’s inception.
Research funding has also been a main priority of the Congressional Lupus Caucus — several of whose members in the House led the request for legislation to create the new lupus research program.
“Our advocates strongly supported the Congressional Lupus Caucus,” Margaret Dowd, the alliance’s co-president and co-CEO, said in a news release. “Sharing their stories with legislators in person during Lupus Advocacy Day 2016, along with hundreds of emails and phone calls, our lupus advocates nationwide brought to life the critical importance of funding innovative research to deliver urgently needed safe therapies to manage this debilitating chronic disease.”
Kenneth Farber, the organization’s other president and CEO, added: “All the members of the House and Senate defense appropriations subcommittees appreciated the difficult health challenges people with lupus face, including those serving in our military. They recognized the need to invest in world-class scientific research, and we thank them all.”
Lupus is a chronic disorder characterized by an abnormal response of the immune system. Nine in ten lupus patients are women, and risk of the disease is particularly high among African-Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans and Asians.