WASHINGTON, June 27, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Mark J. Shlomchik, M.D., Ph.D., the incoming Chair of Immunology at the University of Pittsburgh, was honored Thursday as the first recipient of the Lupus Insight Prize, the first-of-a-kind award for use in innovative research on lupus, an unpredictable and sometimes fatal autoimmune disease that affects an estimated 1.5 million Americans. Dr. Shlomchik received the Prize during a formal ceremony at FOCIS 2013, the 13th Annual Meeting of the Federation of Clinical Immunology Societies in Boston.
The Prize is a collaborative initiative among the Alliance for Lupus Research, the Lupus Foundation of America, and the Lupus Research Institute to recognize and honor the achievements of an outstanding investigator in the field whose research efforts have a high likelihood of generating further advances in understanding the causes, biology, treatments, or cure of lupus.
"I would like to thank the three sponsoring organizations for bestowing this honor upon me," said Dr. Shlomchik. "Lupus is a very complex disease for which I have devoted much of my career. This award will enable me to further my research and make important contributions to understanding and treating this difficult disease."
With the award funds, Dr. Shlomchik will investigate the connection between the death of neutrophils, the body's most abundant white blood cells, and lupus. Many researchers believe lupus is the result of an abnormal immune response to dying cells. To fight infections, neutrophils use a molecule called NADPH oxidase. It was thought that this molecule may cause these neutrophils to die in a way that promotes an autoimmune response. However, to the surprise of most lupus researchers, Dr. Shlomchik discovered that lupus-prone mice that are missing this gene, have markedly worse disease—the opposite of the original theory.
Dr. Shlomchik will create new animal models of lupus that produce neutrophils lacking NADPH oxidase to test how this molecule prevents animals from developing severe lupus. Because NADPH oxidase is turned on by infections, the work could help researchers understand the role infections might play in triggering lupus.
"We are pleased to collaborate with the other organizations to find better ways to manage lupus and, ultimately, to find a cure," said Ken Farber, President of the Alliance for Lupus Research. "By bringing together leaders in their fields, and those with a common focus, we have the opportunity to positively impact the well-being of the 1.5 million Americans with lupus."
"Dr. Shlomchik's work has provided insight into the underlying causes of lupus and has identified pathways for further research," said Sandra Raymond, President and CEO of the Lupus Foundation of America. "Continued support of these research efforts on lupus holds promise of generating further advances in the diagnosis and treatment of this devastating disease."
Lupus Research Institute President and CEO Margaret Dowd commented, "The Lupus Insight Prize recognizes Dr. Shlomchik's outstanding contributions to the field and supports his ability to continue his innovative work. Judging by the exceptional quality of Dr. Shlomchik's work, we can look forward to his further progress in developing novel approaches for new treatments."
Additional information about the Lupus Insight Prize and Dr. Shlomchik's work in lupus are available online at www.lupusinsightprize.org. Information on the application process for the 2014 Prize will be posted in the coming weeks.
Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disease that causes inflammation and tissue damage to any organ system in the body. The health effects of lupus include heart attacks, strokes, seizures, organ failure, and possible death.
About the Funding Organizations
For more information about the Alliance for Lupus Research, visit www.lupusresearch.org.
For more information about the Lupus Foundation of America, visit www.lupus.org.
For more information about the Lupus Research Institute, visit www.lupusresearchinstitute.org.
FOCIS (Federation of Clinical Immunology Societies) exists to improve human health through immunology by fostering interdisciplinary approaches to understand and treat immune-based diseases.
SOURCE Lupus Foundation of America