National Psoriasis Foundation awards $750,000 in research grants

Apr 11, 2011, 11:10 ET from National Psoriasis Foundation

Nine scientists receive funds to study psoriatic disease

PORTLAND, Ore., April 11, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The National Psoriasis Foundation awarded $750,000 in nine research grants to the nation's leading scientists studying psoriasis—a chronic disease of the immune system that appears on the skin, affecting as many as 7.5 million Americans—for projects with the highest likelihood of resulting in better treatments and a cure for this disease.  

"The National Psoriasis Foundation is the only organization that funds these types of promising research grants from leaders in the study of psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis," said Lawrence Green, M.D., chair of the National Psoriasis Foundation Scientific Advisory Committee. "We are dedicated to spearheading psoriatic disease research that will hopefully move us faster toward finding a cure, which is our highest priority."

Seven scientists each received a one-year, $50,000 Discovery Grant for pilot research that focuses on the Psoriasis Foundation's four research pathways of genetics, cell biology, immunology and health outcomes research. They are:

  • Bing-Jian Feng, Ph.D., of University of Utah School of Medicine in Salt Lake City, will investigate two genetic "hot spots" called MICA and HLA-B that have been shown to contribute significantly to the genetic cause of psoriasis in some people. Feng's work will advance our understanding of the genetics of psoriasis and may uncover biologic pathways that guide future drug design and predict risk factor in individuals.  
  • Sam Hwang, M.D., Ph.D., of the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee, recently discovered that a subset of immune cells called gamma delta T-cells are the main source of a key immune mediator called interleukin 22. Since this mediator is responsible for triggering the thickening and scaling of the skin in psoriasis, it is a good target for therapies that might have less risks and side effects than current treatments.
  • Chuanju Liu, Ph.D., of New York University, will investigate the role of progranulin, a protein that is made by immune cells and has been shown to be involved in regulating wound repair and inflammation, in both psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis. The hypothesis is that progranulin can block the disease-promoting activity of tumor necrosis factor. If proven true, this protein could be developed into a novel treatment for psoriasis, psoriatic arthritis and other related conditions.
  • Alicia Mathers, M.D., of the University of Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania, suspects that "danger signals" from damaged skin cells are involved in causing psoriasis plaques. She proposes that two danger signals called ATP and HMGB1 cause activation of skin cells that lead to inflammation and thickening of the skin. This research will lead to a better understanding of initial triggers for psoriasis.
  • Lorena Riol-Blanco, Ph.D., of Harvard Medical School in Boston, wants to study the role of the nervous system in the regulation of the skin immune response to determine how physical interaction between neurons and immune cells in the skin may influence psoriasis. This study may lead to a completely different approach to treating psoriasis and the development of novel therapeutic agents.
  • Stefan Stoll, Ph.D., of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, will examine a variant of a gene called TRAF3IP2 in people with psoriasis that may change how skin cells respond to psoriasis-promoting immune signals such as interleukin 17 and tumor necrosis factor alpha. This research could lead to new and more specific treatments for psoriasis.
  • Patrick Zeeuwen, Ph.D., of Radboud University in the Netherlands, will investigate the contribution of two newly identified genetic risk factors in psoriasis. He believes they are involved in regulating skin function and work together with defects in the immune system to cause psoriasis. Zeewen's project aims to provide insight into mechanisms that cause psoriasis and provide opportunities to identify triggers.  

Additionally, the Foundation awarded two scientists each a two-year, $200,000 Translational Research Grant to focus on moving scientific discoveries from laboratory, clinical or population-based studies into applications with a clear benefit to patients. They are:

  • Antonio Costanza, M.D., of the University of Rome in Italy, aims to examine how skin infections and trauma, caused by damaged skin cells releasing natural antibiotics that activate inflammation in the body, can trigger the immune system to generate psoriatic plaques. He hopes to find a way to block this pathway and prevent plaque formation, which could lead to new ways to treat and prevent psoriasis.
  • Peter Marinovich, M.D., Stanford University in Palo Alto, Calif., will genetically alter different skin and immune cells suspected to be involved in psoriasis to study how each may contribute to the disease. Marinovich's work will advance our understanding of the cause and nature of psoriasis and potentially lead to new directions for psoriasis treatment.

Since 1975, the Psoriasis Foundation has awarded more than $7 million in research grants and is the largest charitable funder of psoriatic disease research worldwide.

To learn more about the National Psoriasis Foundation's research initiatives and grant program, visit

About the National Psoriasis Foundation
The National Psoriasis Foundation is the world's largest nonprofit organization serving people with psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis. Our mission is to find a cure for psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis and to eliminate their devastating effects through research, advocacy and education. For more information, call the Psoriasis Foundation, headquartered in Portland, Ore., at 800.723.9166, or visit

SOURCE National Psoriasis Foundation