The National Institutes of Health has awarded OMRF a 5-year, $3.3 million grant to study diseases of the joints and connective tissues.
OMRF scientist Judith James, M.D., Ph.D., the lead researcher on the project, said that the grant will allow OMRF scientists to build on existing studies in rheumatic disease, as well as to support and fund new pilot projects.
“Rheumatic diseases, including lupus, arthritis and Sjögren’s syndrome, severely diminish the quality and length of life in patients,” said James, who holds the Lou C. Kerr in Biomedical Research at OMRF. “This grant allows us to expand our efforts to better understand these diseases and find new ways to fight them.”
The grant will partially support OMRF’s new biorepository, which holds more than 1 million patient samples taken over the last 30 years at minus-20 and minus-80 degrees Celsius. James said the grant has allowed researchers to attract more patients and healthy controls to enroll in studies and provide samples, as well as to support a database of coded sample information, which is linked to historical samples.
Investigators can maximize the use of these samples and information to help better understand disease processes and develop novel ways to find patients at highest risk for developing a rheumatic disease, said James. It will also be useful for scientists seeking to identify pathways which could be targeted for novel treatments for patients.
“This will allow the biorepository to administer historical collections like the Lupus Family Registry and Repository and other studies to make coded samples available to junior researchers,” James said.
A portion of the funding will also make phenotyping and genetic sequencing resources available to researchers who wouldn’t otherwise have access, she said. Whether they’re junior investigators or those new to rheumatic disease research, these services are important tools for generating the data needed to seek future funding.
One of the most exciting opportunities the grant affords is the ability to fund new pilot projects, James said. Over the next five years, they will accept applications for pilot projects and, each year, choose the top two to fund.
“Pilot projects help researchers who are just starting out begin new, ground-breaking research,” James said. “Even those who aren’t selected will take part in a mentoring and enrichment program. We help them access OMRF’s core facilities to gather the kind of preliminary data necessary to compete for federal funding.”
The grant will also provide for seminars at OMRF with junior investigators who will discuss rheumatic disease research.
Funding for the research is provided by a grant from the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases of the National Institutes of Health under Award Number 2 P30 AR053483-06.