Lupus Research Alliance Launches $3M Interdisciplinary Grant Program to Unravel Disease’s Complexity

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by Mary Chapman |

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The Lupus Research Alliance (LRA) has launched an international grant program to unravel the complexity of lupus and to bring more focus to personalized treatments.

Called the Global Team Science Award, the program will provide up to three grants, totaling up to $3 million each, over three years. Letters of intent are due electronically by May 1. Each applicant must be a medical doctor or hold a doctor of philosophy or equivalent academic degree, and have a faculty position. Researchers working outside of the United States are encouraged to apply. According to the LRA, the grants are the largest by any non-governmental, nonprofit institution.

The three-year awards will fund interdisciplinary and highly collaborative lupus projects, as well as bridge research and clinical efforts. Each of the three- to five-member teams will be led by established investigators who will apply their collective expertise in areas such as technology, immunology, informatics, computational biology, rheumatology, biomedical engineering, nephrology, and neurology.

“There is real wisdom to the old saying, ‘the sum is greater than its parts,’ ” said Teodora Staeva, PhD, chief scientific officer of the LRA, in a press release. “An all-hands-on-deck approach is critical to unravel lupus. This award provides the resources to assemble the talent and the tools to tackle lupus from many angles.”

While many collaborative awards allow scientists to tackle their own individual projects, this program calls for team leaders to attack a single project from varied perspectives. To help bring about breakthroughs in lupus care, research, or therapy development, successful teams will try to figure out lupus by using the latest technologies.

Project goals could include understanding functional consequences of variants, genes, and pathways implicated by genetic studies; unraveling the role of the microbiome (all microbes and their genetic material in the human body) in lupus development and progression; characterizing the immunologic, genetic, and molecular factors differentiating responders and non-responders to lupus treatments; correlating clinical lupus subsets with blood biomarkers; and understanding how different disease mechanisms lead to variable symptoms.

The program promotes the use of cutting-edge technology to study clinical data and patient tissue and other samples, enabling teams to learn what makes lupus difficult to investigate and treat. Each lupus patient journey is different, making more personalized treatments a scientific goal.

“Incomplete understanding of the tremendous clinical and mechanistic heterogeneity of [lupus] remains a central challenge to developing safer and more effective treatments, and to improving the standard of care for all lupus patients,” the LRA wrote in its award summary.

As many as six applicants whose letters of intent are accepted will get grants of up to $10,000 to establish their team and develop a full study plan. Visit this page for more program and eligibility information.