The Lupus Research Institute (LRI) started funding novel research in lupus just six years ago. Impatient for better treatments and a cure for this complex and chronic disease, the founding families and people with the disease sought out strategic advice from the nation's top scientists.
The LRI has followed the strategy the experts outlined—to think outside the box and look in unexpected places and directions for new answers to lupus—ever since.
In 2001 and 2002, the Institute awarded 3-year grants to 23 investigators. They have now completed their work and confirmed their theories, published exciting data, and won millions in government and other funding to expand and build this new research.
A recent professional assessment of these two groups found that:
- 65 percent of researchers have gone on to secure extended funding to pursue their hypotheses
- an overall $6 million Lupus Research Institute investment has turned into more than $23 million in new government grants and other support
- the scientists published 46 papers, many of them in top-tier journals—including two breakthrough discoveries in Science.
- seven projects show early promise for translation into direct patient care, including two new drug therapies already in development and potentially new diagnostic tools now being tested in patients.
Clearly, the Lupus Research Institute strategy is working. As the nation's only organization funding lupus research at this first-tier level, the LRI bridges the chasm between promising ideas and next-tier sources of government and private research funding. Its unique strategy enables scientists who would otherwise find it virtually impossible to secure early funding to pursue their bold new ideas on why the immune system makes such "bad" decisions in lupus.
"I'm extremely grateful to the Lupus Research Institute for being brave enough to fund unusual work at an early stage of development," explains 2001 grant recipient Philip Cohen, M.D., at the University of Pennsylvania. "This initial funding was responsible for getting what is now a very large project off the ground."
In reaching out to and supporting research ideas from diverse specialties, the Institute is generating crucial insight into why the lupus immune system causes damage in such varied parts of the body as the heart, kidneys, skin, and central nervous system. The Institute has successfully brought researchers from other fields to focus on lupus.
And most importantly for the more than 1.5 million Americans and the millions more worldwide who live with the devastation of lupus every day, the Institute is generating results that matter—tangible hope for better treatments and a cure.
"Cutting edge research has been made possible by the Lupus Research Institute funding high-risk projects," said Martin Weigert, Ph.D., an Institute-funded researcher at the University of Chicago. "It's a superb organization doing really important work."