Project # 1: 2013 – Gene Expression Anaylsis in active SLE: Michelle Petri, MD, PhD, Principal Investigator
The Dr. Ira Fine Discovery Fund has a keen interest in funding studies that can help understand why the immune system works against itself. In June of 2013, the Discovery Fund awarded a grant to complete a study that may provide clues to disease activity among those presenting with SLE. Systemic lupus erythematosus often abbreviated to SLE or lupus, is an autoimmune disease where one’s own immune system attacks the body’s cells and tissue, resulting in inflammation and tissue damage. Lupus most often harms the heart, joints, skin, lungs, blood vessels, liver, kidneys, and nervous system. The course of the disease is unpredictable, with periods of illness (called flares) alternating with remissions. The disease occurs nine times more often in women than in men, especially in women in child-bearing years ages 15 to 35, and can be fatal. As of yet, there is no cure for SLE.
Michelle Petri, MD, PhD, and Director of the Lupus Center at Johns Hopkins, with her colleagues Chris Cheadle, Alan Berger and Eric Zollars, have been analyzing samples taken from a large clinical study to define biomarkers of disease activity and organ damage in patients presenting with SLE. What is novel about the study is that the identifying and categorizing of this information will help researchers subdivide Lupus patients into groups with differing molecular patterns, all with the goal of recommending novel therapies based on their molecular makeup.
Project # 2: 2013 – Immune Targets in Human Lyme Disease: Mark Soloski, MD
This is a new project funded by the Discovery Fund, and the first to focus on Lyme Disease and the immune system. This project uses a new tool, proteomics, the large-scale study of proteins, to investigate the immune response in those with Lyme Disease. The hope is to provide tools to segregate Lyme disease patients into subsets who might respond to directed therapies.
Project # 3: 2013 – Type II Interferon Activation in Systemic Sclerosis: Francisco Boin, MD
One of the major initiatives of the Discovery Fund is to help researchers studying autoimmune diseases uncover the mystery as to why some respond to therapies and some may not, even though they may have the same disease. There must be different mechanisms at play. Scleroderma is one of those complicated, multi-system, autoimmune diseases. Francisco Boin, MD, will study the role of interferon pathways in scleroderma which may uncover distinct molecular categories, and which, once identified, will provide a blueprint for targeting proper therapies for the different subsets of the disease.
Project # 4: 2013 – Cancer and Vasculitis: Mechanistic Connections: Philip Seo, MD; Livia Casciola Rosen, PhD
This project will collect data and samples from patients with vasculitis and cancer. Vasculitis is a condition that involves inflammation in the blood vessels where one’s immune system attacks its own blood vessels by mistake. The study aims to determine whether specific immune responses can be detected in patients with vasculitis and cancer as compared to vasculitis without cancer.