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NIH Awards $6M to Create Rheumatoid Arthritis and Lupus Research Network

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) – The National Institutes of Health said today it has awarded $6 million to 11 research teams for studies that will use genomic and single-cell-level analyses to identify potential therapeutic and diagnostic targets for rheumatoid arthritis and lupus.

The grants were awarded under NIH's Accelerating Medicines Partnership program, a public-private initiative that involves multiple pharmaceutical and diagnostics industry partners who help fund and support the projects. NIH launched the $230 million AMP earlier this year to create a new model for propelling translational research that would harness the capabilities, know-how, financial power, and data stores of industry and private organizations. This effort to tackle autoimmune diseases is the AMP's third initiative, as research projects focused on Alzheimer's disease and type 2 diabetes are already underway.

This round of first-year funding will support the creation of the AMP Rheumatoid Arthritis and Lupus Network, a five-year program that will pursue the goals of NIH's AMP RA/Lupus program. Over the course of the five-year program, the network partners will investigate the interplay among biological pathways in samples from RA and lupus patients.

"The goal is to integrate data from multiple genome-wide analytic approaches to generate a comprehensive understanding of the mechanisms of tissue damage in RA and lupus," NIH said in a statement.

The big-picture aim is to create a new model for identifying and validating biological targets for drug and diagnostics development for both of these common diseases.

"These awards represent the first phase of an unprecedented approach to identify pathways that are critical to disease progression in rheumatoid arthritis and lupus," NIH Director Francis Collins said in a statement. "Insights gained from this effort hold the promise of enhancing quality of life for patients and family members affected by these and other devastating autoimmune diseases."

Industry funders supporting the AMP RA/Lupus Network include AbbVie; Bristol-Myers Squibb; Merck; Pfizer; Sanofi; and Takeda. Patient advocacy organizations supporting the initiative include the Arthritis Foundation; the Lupus Foundation of America; the Lupus Research Institute/Alliance for Lupus Research; and the Rheumatology Research Foundation.

"A critical component of the AMP initiative is that NIH and industry partners have agreed to make the AMP data and analyses broadly available to the biomedical research community," said Maria Freire, president and executive director of the Foundation for the NIH, which manages the AMP. "This pre-competitive model of sharing results, risks, and resources can dramatically accelerate drug development and lead to the modification of existing therapies for these challenging diseases."

The $6 million in funding will support a Network Leadership Center at Stanford University and the University of Colorado, Denver. The other institutions that will receive funding and comprise the AMP RA/Lupus Network Research Sites include the University of Rochester; Brigham and Women's Hospital; New York University School of Medicine; Albert Einstein College of Medicine; Rockefeller University; Hospital for Special Surgery; New York Genome Center; Feinstein Institute for Medical Research; University of California, San Francisco; University of Pittsburgh; and Johns Hopkins University. The project will involve additional scientists at the University of Colorado and Stanford University.

"For the first time, we are bringing together multidisciplinary research teams to achieve a broad, systems-level understanding of these diseases, setting the stage for the development of more effective diagnostic and treatment approaches," said Stephen Katz, director of the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases.