Midwest Researchers

Bringing hard work and innovation to lupus research in America's heartland



Marcus Clark, MD

University of Chicago, IL

Marcus Clark, MDDr. Clark has won an NIH grant for $1.1 million to further explore, explain, and expand on a major discovery initially funded by the LRI-and that no one else would take a chance on at the time. His innovative hypothesis was that that the kidneys of people with lupus may actually contain activated B cells that directly promote inflammation and damage in these critical organs.

Timothy Niewold, MD, FACR

University of Chicago, IL

Timothy Niewold, MD, FACRWith initial grant support from LRI, researcher Dr. Timothy Niewold has made great headway in uncovering some of the genes that may predispose African Americans to lupus. This year his work has gained tremendous recognition with several published papers and a sizeable grant from the National Institutes of Health.

Martin Weigert, PhD

University of Chicago, IL

Martin Weigert, PhD"One of the things I have been able to do under the auspices of the LRI is to develop what we hope will become a new diagnostic tool for detecting lupus susceptibility as well for monitoring disease development before, during, and after therapy with drugs such as Rituximab." Dr. Weigert, recipient of two LRI grants who has published extensively and also gone on to secure millions in grants from the NIH and the Dana Foundation to continue his work.

Jian Zhang, MD

University of Chicago, IL

Jian Zhang, MDIn lupus, a defect develops in the body's T cells, which are designed to attack all foreign cells. Dr. Zhang's laboratory is looking into this, and aiming among other things to identify new molecules that might serve as targets for lupus drugs.

Michael C. Schneider, MD

Southern Illinois University School of Medicine, Springfield, IL

Michael C. Schneider, MDThe blood of people with lupus characteristically contains antibodies to DNA, our genetic material. Thanks to LRI support, Dr. Schneider was able to publish revealing information about how this might set the stage for lupus to occur.

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Mariana J. Kaplan, MD

University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI

Mariana J. Kaplan, MDDr. Kaplan published several groundbreaking journal articles and is hoping for a biomarker ("early marker") of women with lupus at risk for heart disease based on discoveries she made with LRI funding. "We found that the [female] lupus patients had abnormal vascular function that was impaired to the same extent seen in the heart disease patients - despite the fact that the lupus patients were approximately half the age."

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Zhixin (Jason) Zhang, PhD

University of Nebraska, Omaha, NE

Zhixin (Jason) Zhang, PhDAs a result of his LRI-funded discoveries showing that lupus can result from B cells in overdrive, this Omaha investigator now has two NIH grants totaling $2.9 million. He's hunting for an "early marker" for lupus diagnosis and organ involvement, and looking at such questions as whether chronic viral or bacterial infections may actually trigger the disease. "Without the LRI we wouldn't have been able to generate the preliminary data for the NIH grants. LRI support made this happen."

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Timothy W. Behrens, MD


With LRI funding, Dr. Behrens looked at over 1,500 blood samples taken from 300 people with lupus over the period of a year, to determine which of the proteins signal active disease and which predict future flares. Their discovery of a single genetic variation linked to lupus provides critical clues to the origin of the disease. Dr. Behrens's work was subsequently taken over by Emily C. Baechler, PhD.

Emily C. Baechler, PhD

University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN

Emily C. Baechler, PhDWhile many genes are believed to be involved in lupus, the discovery of one that appears with relative consistency means that genetic testing for lupus may be a possibility. In LRI-funded work that she took over when Dr. Timothy Behrens left to work at Genentech, Dr. Baechler is not only making headway but has received ongoing funding from the Lupus Foundation of Minnesota to continue her work.

Daniel H. Kaplan, MD, PhD

University of Minnesota, Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN

With LRI funding, Dr. Kaplan is engineering a lupus-prone strain of mice that lacks a cell recently implicated in the development and promotion of lupus. By developing a strain of mice that lacks this cell type, and observing whether the development of lupus is attenuated, Dr. Kaplan's work holds promise for finding more refined lupus treatments.

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Jochen Mattner, MD

Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, OH

Jochen Mattner, MDThanks to LRI funding, Dr. Mattner has helped to confirm a long-held suspicion that certain bacterial or viral infections can elicit strong immune responses that prompt autoimmune illnesses such as lupus. Multiple journal publications have alerted the scientific field. He's our most recent Midwest researcher to win NIH funding--$1.85 million over five years.

Neil S. Greenspan, MD, PhD

Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, OH

Neil S. Greenspan, MD, PhDPeople with lupus produce a number of different kinds of antibodies that attack their body's own tissues and cells-including the kidneys in many cases. With LRI funding, Dr. Greenspan made a discovery that has informed other research investigations on the characteristics of antibodies that predispose to kidney damage in people with lupus.

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