The Lupus Insight Prize is a collaborative initiative among the Alliance for Lupus Research (ALR), the Lupus Foundation of America (LFA) and the Lupus Research Institute (LRI). The $200,000 prize recognizes “a major, novel insight and/or discovery that has the promise of changing thinking about lupus as well as a high likelihood of generating further advances in the diagnosis and treatment of the disease,” according to the award announcement.
Dr. Tsokos’ work involves studying the molecular link between the immune system and the kidney damage seen frequently in patients with lupus nephritis, a dangerous complication of lupus. His research also aims to develop a targeted delivery of drugs directly to kidney cells that block the action of a single destructive enzyme that “derails function of certain podocytes [highly differentiated epithelial cells of the visceral layer of bowman capsule of the kidney] and lets protein leak if they don’t work,” says Dr. Tsokos. “We want to target specific cells to minimize side effects.”
Gerald Nepom: Director of Benaroya Research Institute to Step Down
After 30 years, Gerald Nepom, MD, will leave his post as director of Benaroya Research Institute (BRI) Virginia Mason in Seattle. Dr. Nepom is credited with leading the institute in international prominence through research into rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, allergies and other immune-system disorders. “[A]n amazing 30-year history with major scientific and medical impacts,” says Kristi Pangrazio, Board of Directors chair.
He will continue with his own research, which focuses “on identifying and understanding molecular and genetic mechanisms contributing to pathogenesis of autoimmune disorders and using this information to evaluate autoreactive T cell lineage and fate determination.”
Dr. Nepom will also continue his 10-year tenure as director of the Immune Tolerance Network (ITN). In 2014, BRI was awarded $27 million annually for seven years to provide management and oversight of ITN’s research of the immune system diseases—one of the largest grants the National Institutes of Health has ever given.
As much as he characterizes his being director of BRI as “an exciting and fulfilling experience,” Dr. Nepom feels it is time to pass the baton. He says the research requires looking forward at least five years into the future. He told the BRI Board of Directors he thought “the institute deserved someone invested in the long-term strategic plan, and ITN deserves a focused effort.”
Jane Buckner, MD, is currently the associate director and will assume the title of president of BRI (with duties that are similar to Dr. Nepom’s) at the end of 2015.