Lupus Research Institute Strategy Delivers $30 Million in National Funding

Breakthroughs Propel Novel Lupus Research to New Levels Despite Federal Budget Tightening

New York, Nov. 19, 2007 – The Lupus Research Institute (LRI) strategy of backing innovative investigations into systemic lupus, the autoimmune disease, has now yielded an unprecedented $30 million in large-scale funding from the National Institutes of Health and other government and private sources, an independent progress report has determined.

To date, 36 scientists have completed their novel research grants from the 7-year-old LRI—an Institute investment of $9 million. A remarkable 61% of these investigators have now turned their innovative hypotheses into confirmed discoveries, winning $30 million in large-scale grants to advance new scientific approaches to how and why lupus occurs, and what can be done to prevent and treat it.

“The LRI has been the leader in seeking and funding unproven but promising scientific hypotheses in lupus,” said Mark Shlomchik, MD, PhD, professor of Laboratory Medicine and Immunology at Yale University School of Medicine and a member of the LRI Scientific Advisory Board. “It’s because the LRI supported these innovative ideas in the first place that successful competition for scarce federal funding was possible.”

An estimated 1.5 million Americans, and millions more worldwide, have lupus. Many are young women in the prime of their lives. No one knows why lupus occurs, or how to prevent or cure it. There hasn’t been a new treatment approved for lupus in nearly 50 years, and existing medications are often toxic and can have debilitating effects.

LRI Breakthrough Discoveries in Lupus

Since its inception 7 years ago, the Institute has invested $22 million overall in cutting-edge lupus research, and current LRI-supported investigators are poised to capture similar large-scale awards. The Institute supports scientists from wide-ranging specialties who might otherwise not receive funds for their innovative and untested hypotheses in lupus.

In a brief time, LRI scientists have made breakthrough discoveries in such diverse fields as genetics, molecular science, cardiovascular disease, kidney disease, cognitive science, biomarkers, and pathways to autoimmune attack. Discoveries include:

  • 20 potential lupus biomarkers – early predictors of disease and treatment effectiveness; six are now in clinical investigation and human testing.
  • Genes that increase susceptibility to lupus
  • Pathways that enable misguided antibodies to attack
  • Molecules that determine control of the immune system
  • Targets for new treatments
  • Insights on how lupus damages organs – the heart, kidneys, brain, skin

“I’m grateful to the LRI for being brave enough to fund unusual work at an early stage of development,” said Philip Cohen, MD, of the University of Pennsylvania, who received an LRI research grant in 2001 and is continuing his investigations. “This initial funding was responsible for getting what is now a very large project off the ground.”

About the Lupus Research Institute

Pioneering Discovery to prevent, treat and cure lupus. The Lupus Research Institute (LRI), the country’s only nonprofit organization singularly devoted to novel research in lupus, champions innovation, encourages scientific creativity and risks exploring uncharted territory to bring new scientific solutions to the complex and dangerous autoimmune disease of lupus. Founded by families and shaped by scientists, the Institute mandates sound science and rigorous peer review to uncover and support only the highest ranked novel research. Its bold and proven research strategy places the LRI at the forefront of lupus science as the Institute consistently achieves the breakthrough discoveries, novel insights and solid results that are changing the course of lupus research and bringing new hope to people with lupus nationwide.

To learn more about lupus and the Lupus Research Institute, visit www.lupusresearchinstitute.org.

About Lupus

Systemic lupus erythematosus (S.L.E.), commonly called lupus, is a chronic and potentially fatal autoimmune disease and one of the nation’s least recognized major diseases. It affects more than 1.5 million Americans. Lupus is a leading cause of heart attack, kidney disease, and stroke among young women. Ninety percent of people with lupus are women. Lupus is considered the prototype autoimmune disease because the body’s immune system forms antibodies that can attack virtually any healthy organ or tissue, from the kidneys to the brain, heart, lungs, skin, joints, and blood.