October 2008


What Can Speed New Lupus Treatments?

We thought you’d like to know about some compelling ideas on using new technologies to move incredible LRI discoveries from the laboratory to patient care—and quickly.

Researchers, NIH leaders, pharmaceutical and biotechnology experts, technology innovators from other fields—all were wowed by technology advances presented at the LRI's Forum for Discovery scientific conference.


LRI at the Forefront of Advancing Innovation

Experts at the conference’s special industry panel said that cutting-edge technologies in systems biology are producing great opportunities to actually fast-forward human studies in lupus and autoimmunity.
Over the past few years, imaging technologies have rapidly matured. The human genome has been sequenced. The biology of whole systems—not just small bits of it—are now at scientists’ fingertips. And these dynamic models of disease, unlike the simpler diagrams of yesterday, offer dramatically realistic means for testing potential new agents/treatments in real-time.

Technology Speeding Answers on Lupus

"How can the new technologies actually help speed treatments?"
- moderator Mark Shlomchik, MD, PhD, Yale University 

Here are just a few ways, the panelists offered:

  • First, explore! Before an actual clinical trial, do more exploratory work using the new technologies to see if the proposed treatment (agent) is truly likely to work in patients—and which patients. Those with early disease? Late disease? Certain organ manifestations?
  • Economize Design clinical trials that are smaller, faster, and more nimble with the help of new technologies that can reveal so much, so quickly, about what actually works. A good place to start: short proof-of-concept trials, some as brief as a week or two, in which an idea for a new agent can be tested in narrow, well-defined  patient groups.
  • Strategize Glean more precious data from completed clinical trials. Standardize and centralize collected samples that others might be able to use.
  • Reconsider! Revamp what it means to for a lupus drug to “work,” given the heterogeneity of the disease.


Gregory Dennis, MD, Human Genome Sciences:

“Using systems modeling to predict immunological responses is fascinating. It suggests that one day it might be possible to perform more informative proof-of-concept studies to assess immune targets prior to performing clinical trials.”


Paul Brunetta, MD, Genentech:

“It’s an incredibly exciting time. Right now, I’d say the most important thing that we can do is really to focus mostly on the instrument we use to measure the effectiveness of a new treatment or approach.”


Implications for Human Lupus Biology

The new technologies also supply rocket fuel to the LRI’s recently launched program in the biology of human lupus—using tiny amounts of human material (cells, blood, tissue), rather than animals, to generate new answers applicable to the human disease.

“The potential now to leap-frog rapidly from animal models to understanding human systems is nothing less than stunning,” said LRI President Margaret Dowd. 


The Industry Panel

(l to r): Paul Brunetta, MD, Genentech; Matthew D. Linnik, PhD, La Jolla Pharmaceuticals; Gregory Dennis, MD, Human Genome Sciences; Marcus Clark, MD, University of Chicago; Benjamin D. Schwartz, MD, PhD, Washington University School of Medicine.





(also pictured, lower left: Greg E. Lemke, PhD, Salk Institute)