Six Additional New Investigator Grants Awarded to New York Area Scientists

Funding Reaches Nearly $2 Million to Advance New Talent in Lupus Research

New York, NY, August 10, 2005 – The recent addition of six New Investigator Program grants brings the S.L.E. Lupus Foundation's total new investigator research commitment for New York area scientists to almost $2 million, making it the largest program in America specifically supporting the development of new scientific talent in lupus research.

Researchers funded are from seven medical centers across the metropolitan region including Columbia University, the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, Hospital for Special Surgery, the Rockefeller University, North Shore LIJ Research Institute, and Yale University (New Haven, Connecticut).

"With these grants, exceptional scientists will have the chance to make a real difference in the science of lupus, and in the lives of people with this chronic and often devastating autoimmune disease," said Foundation Executive Director Margaret G. Dowd. "The New Investigator Program brings vitally needed fresh talent to the field by supporting researchers early in their careers, when many scientists produce their most creative and innovative work."

Three types of grants were awarded in the latest round. For the Extended Fellowship and Career Development Awards, the promise of the applicant and the richness of the training environment were particularly vital. "Several of the newly awarded grants provide valuable training opportunities with leaders in the field of lupus research such as Betty Diamond, MD and Anne Davidson of Columbia University, and Mark Shlomchik, MD of Yale University," pointed out Bruce Cronstein, MD, chairman of the Foundation's Medical Advisory Board.

Recipients of the new Extended Fellowship Awards are:

  • Philip Kahn, MD, Columbia University. Dr. Kahn will use the 3-year $150,000 award to investigate a mouse model of anti-phospholipid syndrome (APS), which affects about a third of people with lupus.
  • Sun Jung Kim, PhD, Columbia University. Working with established lupus investigator and mentor Dr. Betty Diamond, this postdoctoral fellow will apply the 3-year $135,000 grant to investigate the interaction between B cells and a type of receptor on dendritic cells (FcRy). This dynamic may be responsible for generating a sustained autoantibody response in SLE.

Recipients of the Research Grants ($150,000 over 3 years) are:

  • Elena Peeva, MD, MSc, Albert Einstein College of Medicine. Dr. Peeva will examine the mechanisms by which the hormone prolactin may promote the development of lupus.
  • Ann Haberman, PhD, Yale University. Dr. Haberman was awarded the grant to examine the mechanisms at play in so-called germinal centers that form to produce high affinity B cells when the immune system gets alerted to pathogens.

Recipients of the Career Development Awards ($150,000 over 3 years) are:

  • Giovanni Franchin, MD, PhD, Columbia University. Dr. Franchin will explore the potential of new agents to inhibit a specific interaction likely used as a communication gateway between immune cells in lupus, CD40-CD40L.
  • Meera Ramanujam, PhD, Columbia University. Dr. Ramanujam will examine the biology of two soluble B cell survival signals in mice with lupus. Antagonists to these B cell survival signals already are being examined in clinical trials.

Other researchers currently funded through the Foundation's New Investigator Program are Guillermina Girardi, PhD, at the Hospital for Special Surgery; Ingrid Mecklenbrauker, PhD, at Rockefeller University; Jun Yan, MD, PhD, University of Louisville (formerly at Yale University); Rajendra N. Damle, PhD, at North Shore LIJ Research Institute; Min Yang, MD, at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine; and Adrian Ting, PhD at Mount Sinai School of Medicine.