One junior investigator who received support from the Rheumatology Research Foundation for essential research into rheumatic diseases now has a better understanding of what it takes to move her research forward. Julia Charles, MD, PhD, and a handful of other Foundation awardees, were among investigators supported by the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS) who presented their research at the Institute’s annual Forum for Clinical Mentored K Awardees. Dr. Charles says that while there, she learned more about how to advance her research. She adds that the Foundation provided integral funding along her path to earning support from NIAMS and affecting future treatments for patients.
Dr. Charles is an associate physician and instructor at Brigham and Women’s Hospital/Harvard Medical School. Her research focuses on osteoclasts, the only type of cell known to destroy bone. In some diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis (RA), osteoclasts become overactive and destroy bone in areas they don’t usually affect, such as joints. Dr. Charles was invited to the December 2014 forum because her research is currently being funded by a NIAMS K08 award, which supports mentored research projects that help develop the careers of clinical scientists. She is studying the origin of osteoclasts, how the cells that become osteoclasts increase in inflammatory arthritis and how they suppress the immune system. She explains that her work could have a big impact on how people with rheumatic diseases are treated. “I hope the kinds of questions I am trying to answer will eventually help inform more effective and novel ways to prevent erosions and bone loss in RA and other inflammatory arthritis conditions.”
According to Dr. Charles, the Rheumatology Research Foundation is a large part of the reason she has been able to continue her critical research and garner support from NIAMS, which is part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Shortly after she finished her fellowship at the University of California, San Francisco, Dr. Charles received the Investigator Award from the Foundation, which helps young researchers investigate novel ideas while they work to become independent. Dr. Charles says that because of the Foundation award, she was able to gather ample preliminary data and publish enough of her work to earn even more extensive financial support through her K award. For investigators such as Dr. Charles, K awards from the NIH are an integral step in advancing their research and becoming established in the field.