He says being honored by the Society is especially meaningful to him, because as a young medical student he was interested in fever—which naturally led to an interest in cytokines. Today, one area of his scientific interest is cytokine signal transduction. His research with the highest visibility is probably the discovery and development of tofacitinib—brand name Xeljanz—in collaboration with Pfizer.
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“The dramatic advances in research are so exciting,” says Dr. O’Shea. “If you’ve been in this business long enough, you know the advances become faster the more we know. The research tools keep getting better. In drug development, for example, what you learn is that our understanding of biology changes as we learn more.”
Dr. O’Shea is the senior investigator and director of the Molecular Immunology and Inflammation Branch, National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS).
2016 Research & Hope Awards from PhRMA
The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) recognized patient advocates and researchers with 2016 Research & Hope Awards at the annual dinner in Washington, D.C. PhRMA represents leading biopharmaceutical research companies. This year’s award recipients were honored for their tireless efforts to advance the treatment and care of patients with autoimmune diseases.
After an open-nomination process, the Scientific Advisory Board of the PhRMA Foundation selected six recipients of Research & Hope awards, five of which came from the rheumatology community.
The Award for Biopharmaceutical Industry Research went to the Humira team led by John Medich, PhD, vice president, immunology clinical development, at AbbVie (a 2013 spinoff of Abbott Laboratories). Before becoming vice president at AbbVie, Dr. Medich was the global project head for Humira, which is FDA approved to treat 10 autoimmune diseases. Dr. Medich says, “The future is in personalized medicine.” With a better understanding of patients and disease, he believes there could be a library of treatments to draw from, rather than pursuing treatment through trial and error.
Joan Merrill, MD, chief advisor, clinical development, Lupus Foundation of America (LFA), received the Award for Nonprofit Research. Dr. Merrill says because lupus is not just one simple organism, but rather multiple disorders of the immune system, clinical treatment design is difficult. She’s part of a collaborative group working on an outcome measure for lupus: LFA-REAL (Rapid Evaluation of Activity in Lupus). “This isn’t personal medicine like treating cancer. This will be precision medicine: finding the subset of patients that meds will most likely help,” says Dr. Merrill.