January 30, 2009

LFA Congratulates Dr. Joseph Ahearn for Receiving DoD Grant for Research on Lupus Biomarkers

The Lupus Foundation of America, Inc. (LFA) congratulates Joseph M. Ahearn, M.D., Associate Professor of Medicine and Co-Director of the Lupus Center of Excellence at the University of Pittsburgh, for being selected to receive a research grant from the U.S. Department of Defense’s (DoD) Congressionally Directed Peer Reviewed Medical Research Program (PRMRP). The DoD award will fund the Lupus Center of Excellence’s ongoing studies on lupus biomarkers.

Biomarkers are specific biochemicals found in the body which are structured in a way that make them useful for diagnosing a disease, measuring its progress or measuring the effects of treatment. Research on lupus biomarkers is a key area of scientific interest for the LFA.

Dr. Ahearn also is the recipient of a research grant from the LFA for a study on lupus biomarkers, "Biomarkers for Diagnosis, Monitoring and Prognosis in Pediatric Lupus." This is the first study in which biomarkers for lupus are being investigated in both adults and children. Dr. Ahearn is one of two lupus investigators to receive grants through the LFA’s newly established Michael Jon Barlin Pediatric Lupus Research Program. The LFA is the only national voluntary health organization with a research program specifically dedicated to studies on lupus in children. Read more about this research initiative and Dr. Ahearn’s research study.

Through its advocacy initiatives that began in 2003, the LFA pioneered efforts to have lupus and lupus biomarkers included as disease areas eligible for research funding through the PRMRP. The LFA made a persuasive case to DoD officials that described the relevance of lupus research to military personnel and their dependents. These efforts have opened a new source of much needed funds to support research on lupus.

Since including lupus and lupus biomarkers among the areas approved for funding, the PRMRP has awarded six grants totaling more than $6 million in new funding to support important studies. Four of the six DoD grants have specifically been awarded for studies on lupus biomarkers.

The development of new biomarkers for lupus could have profound benefits in obtaining U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval for new, safe and more tolerable therapies for lupus, not only by providing the sophisticated level of guidance needed so that these agents will work optimally, but also by simultaneously providing objective measurements to demonstrate if the new treatment is working. More targeted therapies, or even better biomarkers to guide existing treatments, will allow physicians to treat lupus while avoiding the sometimes devastating side effects caused by current methods used to control the disease.

Funding for lupus research through the DoD and all other relevant federal agencies has been a long-recognized priority for LFA advocacy efforts. Due to the changing demographics of the military population, there is an ever-increasing prevalence of lupus in military and Veterans Hospital Clinics. The LFA recognized this emerging health issue and worked to have lupus included in the PRMRP to advance research on lupus, which ultimately will help military personnel and their families affected by lupus.

To learn more, visit the DoD’s Congressionally Directed Peer Reviewed Medical Research Program’s Web site at http://cdmrp.army.mil/prmrp/

Learn more about LFA advocacy initiatives or LFA-funded research.

Watch a video interview with Dr. Joseph Ahearn, Director of the Lupus Center of Excellence at the University of Pittsburgh. Below, he discusses his LFA-supported research study, "Biomarkers for Diagnosis, Monitoring and Prognosis in Pediatric SLE."

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