UC San Diego gifted $1.6M to enhance lupus research, care

Donation will establish the Wolfe Lupus Research Fund

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by Mary Chapman |

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Two people, one wearing a lab coat, hold an oversized check amid balloons and confetti.

A $1.6 million gift from business executive William J. Wolfe and his family will establish the Wolfe Lupus Research Fund at the University of California (UC) San Diego to advance lupus research and patient care.

Wolfe, a longtime lupus community supporter, is a board member of the Lupus Research Alliance and its affiliate, Lupus Therapeutics, which he helped found to improve treatment development for the autoimmune disease.

Along with funding studies, the donation will enable a full-time clinical patient services manager to be hired and an early-career clinician focused on lupus to be recruited, with the aim of training the next generation of field researchers.

“UC San Diego is home to one of only a handful of lupus centers around the country,” Kenneth Kalunian, MD, a rheumatologist at UC San Diego Health and the director of the university’s lupus center, said in an university news release. “We are so grateful for this generous gift from Bill Wolfe and his family, which will further support the center’s excellence and allow us to expand our efforts in finding innovative treatments for lupus, caring for patients suffering from the devastating disease, and continuing to build a network of researchers and patients who are working together to combat this condition.”

Kalunian will hold the title of Wolfe Family Director.

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A ‘personal stake’ in lupus research, care

Wolfe and his family have a personal stake in improving lupus care and research, as Wolfe’s daughter, Jacqueline, lives with the disease.

“My daughter has tried over 50 different medications,” Wolfe said. “She has spent weeks in the intensive care unit. She is stable now, and it is in large part because Dr. Kalunian refused to give up. My hope is that this will provide support so that UC San Diego can provide that same excellent care for more lupus patients from around the country.”

Wolfe’s brother, Scott, a UC San Diego Foundation board member, also supported the new fund. His daughter also is a lupus patient under Kalunian’s care.

“Lupus is a complicated disease,” Wolfe said. “When you have an overactive immune system from lupus, it is unlike many other conditions for which doctors have a direct line of treatment. Because of this, lupus patients need an enormous amount of medical care and close communication with their physician and medical team.”

The announcement precedes a UC San Diego symposium that will focus on lupus and bring together scientists, patients, and caregivers. The free Oct. 14 event will include a presentation of the goals and mission of the university’s new Center for Lupus Research, which the Wolfe family also helped establish.

The aim of the center is to improve patient care and education, collaborate in a multidisciplinary approach toward lupus care, and aid collaborative participation in clinical trials.

The symposium, to be held at the university’s Altman Clinical & Translational Research Institute, will present an overview of lupus and its effects and bring attendees up to date on current and future treatments and a common kidney-related complication called lupus nephritis.