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Success of LA Researchers Spurs Millions in Additional $$ to Expand Lupus Work

LA helps Lupus Research Institute secure over $70 million from NIH and others

Bevra Hahn, MD, Maureen McMahon, MD, and Greg E. Lemke, PhD.

In confirmation of the power of the Lupus Research Institute (LRI) model to find answers to lupus, three area researchers are among the many who have proven their innovative hypotheses and secured over $50 million from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and others to continue their exciting work, a recent analysis reveals.

In all, 65 percent of the scientists done with their 3-year “Novel Research” grants from the LRI have won ongoing funding.

“The scope, speed, and consistent pace of this scientific discovery are unprecedented in private-sector lupus research,” said LRI President Margaret Dowd. “We began convinced that the path to a cure lay in freeing investigators to think creatively and imaginatively, so we asked for outside-of-the-box thinking. LRI investigators have turned that box inside-out and upside-down.”

“The LRI strategy of funding novel scientific ideas in lupus has more than demonstrated its power,” adds William E. Paul, MD, chief of the Laboratory of Immunology at NIAIDNIH, and chair of the LRI’s Scientific Advisory Board. “The model strengthens the lupus research landscape by moving novel concepts forward to secure large-scale federal funding.” The LRI invests $300,000 each in grants for innovative work at academic medical centers nationwide. It’s the only organization pioneering lupus discovery through this bold, highrisk model.

At first, no one would fund exploration of Dr. Greg Lemke’s novel idea that a curious family of immune system receptors called “TAM” receptors might function as a core ‘control switch’ over the immune system’s inflammatory response. But he was right. Now the Salk Institute for Biologic Studies researcher has grants of $1.4 million from the NIH and other organizations to explore exciting new approaches to mastering this switch—shutting down the uncontrolled inflammation of lupus and other autoimmune illnesses by restoring immune system regulation. “Without the LRI…this fundamental discovery in immunology would not have happened,” Dr. Lemke said.

At first, no other funding group except the LRI would support exploration of Drs. Bevra Hahn and Maureen McMahon’s novel idea that a certain form of the normally “good” HDL cholesterol linked to heart health might play a counterproductive role in lupus and actually promote atherosclerosis. Now the University of California at Los Angeles researchers have various new grants totaling over $869,000 to find ways to detect, prevent and treat lupus-related atherosclerosis.

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