Mark Shlomchik, MD, PhD, the incoming chair of immunology at the University of Pittsburgh, is the first recipient of the Lupus Insight Prize. The award and $200,000 grant for use in “innovative research” was given by the Alliance for Lupus Research, the Lupus Foundation of America, and the Lupus Research Institute.
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Dr. Shlomchik will use the grant to continue his research on the connection between the death of neutrophils and lupus. And, frankly, he says the money comes at a good time, as a research proposal to build a new mouse model did not land a National Institutes of Health grant.
“Without this award, I would have really had to close down what I consider to be my most promising avenue of lupus research,” Dr. Shlomchik tells The Rheumatologist. “I’m hopeful that this will be a bridge, eventually, to a longer-term project.”
Dr. Shlomchik says he’ll use the Lupus Insight Prize money to develop a new mouse model. A burgeoning technique that can pre-engineer an autoimmune-prone, genetic background could yield experiment-ready mice in six months. A more traditional approach could take nearly two years to have mice ready for experiments. Thanks to the size of the grant, he says he might even have enough money to do both.
Though the time frame for results may sound long to some, Dr. Shlomchik adds that he is accustomed to looking at long-term benefits in a field that focuses on a chronic disease.
“We all are eager to get to the answers as quickly as we can, but ultimately, by understanding the mechanisms of lupus, we can hopefully use this as an approach for either diagnosis or therapy as well,” he says. “That’s a much longer time horizon, but this is the way that treatments are determined. You have to understand why it goes wrong.”
Richard Quinn is a freelance writer in New Jersey.