Lupus Research Institute Announces New Global Research on Fundamental Causes of Lupus

2013 Distinguished Innovators Awards Support Large-scale Novel Studies to Find Root Causes that Can Drive to a Cure

The  Lupus Research Institute (LRI) announced recipients of its 2013 Distinguished Innovator Award, taking the organization across the globe to support highly innovative studies on two continents. Now the world’s largest private grants in novel lupus research, the LRI Distinguished Innovator Award supports large-scale studies for up to $1 million that can advance the search for a cure by uncovering fundamental causes of lupus.

The 2013 award recipients are David Tarlinton, PhD at The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research, Australia and Kenneth Smith, MD, PhD of University of Cambridge, Great Britain. Dr. Tarlinton will explore new ways to kill the cells responsible for producing autoantibodies that damage tissue and organs in lupus.  Dr. Smith is pursuing an approach to predicting lupus outcome that has potential to reveal new ways to stop lupus progression.

“With the Distinguished Innovator grants, these two outstanding investigators have the opportunity to pursue potential new areas in lupus research that may strike at the root causes of SLE,” noted world-leading immunologist Dr. William Paul, LRI Scientific Advisory Board Chairman and National Academy of Sciences member.  “Drs. Tarlinton and Smith bring exciting new concepts to the causes of lupus; the knowledge emerging from their work has the potential to accelerate the drive toward therapies that can stop and reverse the progression of the disease.”

“The Lupus Research Institute’s global effort confirms our commitment to support the best novel research wherever it originates,” said Margaret Dowd, President and CEO. “In just its second year the Distinguished Innovator Award is gaining worldwide recognition for allowing scientists to pursue the big ideas that can get at the underlying origins of lupus. If we can understand what causes this prototypical autoimmune disease, we can find ways to stop it.”

Getting at the Source of Autoantibodies

Dr. Tarlinton’s project targets the cells that produce the disease-causing autoantibodies in lupus. The life span of these antibody secreting cells, which are called plasma cells, is normally controlled by a protein inside them called Lyn. In lupus, harmful plasma cells survive, possibly due to abnormally low levels of Lyn. Dr. Tarlinton will search for drug candidates that can remove these plasma cells by mimicking the effects of Lyn.

Potential for Personalized Treatment

Dr. Smith's group has discovered that lupus patients who develop more severe disease have a distinctive pattern of genes turned on in their white blood cells. He and his group will investigate whether this gene pattern can be used as a practical test for long-term lupus prognosis. Such a predictive test would allow for safer and more effective personalized treatment. They will also explore what causes this gene pattern, in the search for new treatment strategies.