Bruce Richardson, M.D., Ph.D., of the University of Michigan, was honored Wednesday as the second recipient of the Lupus Insight Prize, the award for use in innovative research on lupus, an unpredictable and sometimes fatal autoimmune disease that affects an estimated 1.5 million Americans. Dr. Richardson received the Prize during a formal ceremony at FOCIS 2014, the 14th Annual Meeting of the Federation of Clinical Immunology Societies in Chicago.
The Prize is a collaborative initiative among the Alliance for Lupus Research, the Lupus Foundation of America, and the Lupus Research Institute to recognize and honor the achievements of an outstanding investigator in the field whose research efforts have made significant contributions and have a high likelihood of generating further insights in understanding the causes, biology, treatments, or cure of lupus.
“I would like to thank the Alliance for Lupus Research, the Lupus Foundation of America and the Lupus Research Institute for this honor. The award will allow us to identify epigenetically regulated gene products that may be targets for new lupus treatments, characterize how environmental stressors and diet affect lupus flare severity, and identify new ways to prevent lupus flares,” said Dr. Richardson. “I would also like to thank all the people who worked in my laboratory and made these studies successful, and the others in the fields of epigenetics and autoimmunity that provided the foundations for this work.”
Epigenetics looks at the mechanisms that turn genes on or off. These modifications may occur naturally or as a result of external factors including age, environment, lifestyle, and disease state. Dr. Richardson discovered that some lupus-causing drugs alter gene activity or expression in normal “helper” lymphocytes, converting them into autoreactive “killer” lymphocytes that attack other cells and cause lupus in mice. He also found the same changes in gene expression in lymphocytes from patients with active lupus, and that many of the environmental agents implicated in lupus, as well as diet, contribute to the changes by altering gene expression. With the award funds, Dr. Richardson will identify the genes affected by environmental agents, and determine how these environmental agents and diet cause changes in lymphocytes.
Lupus Research Institute President and CEO Margaret Dowd commented, “Dr. Richardson’s pioneering work laid the foundation for the study of epigenetics in lupus and autoimmunity. He continues to study how environmental exposures, genetic factors and epigenetic changes interact to trigger lupus disease and flares.”
“Dr. Richardson’s research will help to identify potential new approaches to managing lupus and gives us new targets for developing drug therapies,” said Sandra Raymond, President and CEO of the Lupus Foundation of America. “It also will provide clearer insight into which environmental factors are important in triggering lupus.”
“All of the organizations involved in this effort want to quickly improve the well-being of the 1.5 million Americans living with lupus and countless others who are affected by it,” said Kenneth Farber, President of the Alliance for Lupus Research. “Working together with the other organizations and with innovators in their field to focus on our common goal to accelerate progress is the way that we are going to make a strong impact.”
Additional information about the Lupus Insight Prize and Dr. Richardson’s work in lupus are available online at www.lupusinsightprize.org. Information on the application process for the 2015 Prize will be posted in the coming weeks.
Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disease that causes inflammation and tissue damage to any organ system in the body. The health effects of lupus include heart attacks, strokes, seizures, organ failure, and possible death.
About the Funding Organizations
For more information about the Alliance for Lupus Research, visit www.lupusresearch.org.
For more information about the Lupus Foundation of America, visit www.lupus.org.
For more information about the Lupus Research Institute, visit www.lupusresearchinstitute.org.
FOCIS (Federation of Clinical Immunology Societies) exists to improve human health through immunology by fostering interdisciplinary approaches to understand and treat immune-based diseases.
From left to right: Dr. Peter Lipsky, LRI Scientific Advisor;Dr. Bruce Richardson, 2014 Insight Prize Recipient; Margaret Dowd, LRI CEO/President; Dr. Amr Sawalha, LRI Novel Research Grant Recipient
From left to right: Kenneth Farber, President of the Alliance
for Lupus Research; Dr. Bruce Richardson, 2014 Insight Prize
Recipient; Margaret Dowd, LRI CEO/President