Lupus Foundation of America Announces Recipients of 2015 LIFELINE Grants

Ines Martins, PhD avatar

by Ines Martins, PhD |

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The leading organization in the U.S. dedicated to addressing lupus, The Lupus Foundation of America, has just revealed the recipients of five research grants, awarded under the Foundation’s commitment to support lupus-focused researchers in conducting clinical trials necessary to better understanding and eventually curing this life-altering autoimmune disease.

“The researchers and projects receiving funding have the potential to lead to better treatments and, ultimately, a better quality of life for people with lupus,” said Gary S. Gilkeson, M.D., Professor of Medicine/Microbiology and Immunology at the Medical University of South Carolina, and Chair of the Lupus Foundation of America Medical-Scientific Advisory Council. “Supporting innovative lupus researchers is a priority for the Lupus Foundation of America. Only by funding vital research, can we achieve our goal of solving the cruel mystery of lupus.”

Each grant awarded through the Foundation’s LIFELINE Grant Program™ offers the recipient a year’s worth of financial support, coming in where funding from government agencies cannot. While the grants may not cover the whole course of a research program, they serve as much-needed assistance while the researchers seek larger funding.

The Lupus Foundation of America’s 2015 LIFELINE recipients are:

  • Jennifer Anolik, M.D., Ph.D., Associate Professor, University of Rochester, Rochester, NY – Dr. Anolik’s project will study how cells of the immune system behave within lupus patients’ bone marrow through mouse models of the disease. This grant award is provided through a trust created in memory of Stephen and Catherine Pida.
  • Trine N. Jorgensen, Ph.D., Assistant Staff, Department of Immunology, Lerner Research Institute, Cleveland Clinic, Cleveland, OH – Dr. Jorgensen’s project will explore how the immune system plasmacytoid dendritic cells, known to be elevated in lupus patients, can lead to the development of the disease. This grant is made possible, in part, by funds provided by the Lupus Foundation of America Greater Ohio Chapter and is presented in memory of Kassie McMullin Biglow.

The Foundation also chose to fund the following for their focus on lupus in pediatric patients, through the Michael Jon Barlin Pediatric Research Program, which was created together with the Wallace H. Coulter Foundation:

  • Pediatric Health Outcomes – Earl Silverman, M.D., FRCPC, Division of Rheumatology, SickKids Hospital, Toronto, Ontario, has been awarded the 2015 Lucy Vodden Research, founded in memory of Lucy Vodden, by the Lupus Foundation of America and Julian Lennon. This grant is also made possible by funds provided by the Louis Berkowitz Family Foundation. Dr. Silverman’s project will work on discovering new genetic factors that play roles in kidney function and risk of kidney failure in children with lupus.
  • Adult Stem Cells – Nora G. Singer, M.D., Division Chief of Rheumatology, The MetroHealth System, Cleveland, OH, will be working on developing biomarkers that can monitor the therapeutic effect of adult stem cells in lupus patients. Any resulting biomarkers will eventually be integrated in a new test that can be used in clinical trials involving mesenchymal stem cells. This grant is made possible in part by funds provided by the Lupus Foundation of America Greater Ohio Chapter.

The final LIFELINE grant was given to a study on the environmental triggers underlying lupus:

  • James J. Pestka, Ph.D., University Distinguished Professor, Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI – Dr. Pestka’s project will study the benefits of dietary docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), an omega-3 fatty acid found in fish, in preventing the inflammation and autoimmunity caused by respirable crystalline silica.

To evaluate submitted applications, the Lupus Foundation of America employs a rigorous, peer-review system that uses the same method for review as other major funders of medical research such as the National Institutes of Health.