Thirteen scientists receive grant to identify new treatments, cure for psoriasis

Published on July 16, 2014 at 9:12 AM · No Comments

Thirteen scientists received a total of $1.05 million in funding from the National Psoriasis Foundation for projects that aim to identify new treatments and a cure for psoriasis—an autoimmune disease that appears on the skin, affecting 7.5 million Americans—and psoriatic arthritis—an inflammatory arthritis that affects the joints and tendons, occurring in up to 30 percent of people with psoriasis.

This year, three scientists each received a two-year, $200,000 National Psoriasis Foundation Translational Grant to "translate" their laboratory findings into improved treatments and methods for managing psoriatic disease.

The Translational Grant recipients and their projects are:

  • Kevin Cooper, M.D., of Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland received the Dr. Alan Menter Translational Grant, named in recognition of one of the world's leading psoriatic disease experts. Cooper will determine whether systemic psoriasis treatments can reduce the risk for cardiovascular disease.
  • Lorena Riol Blanco, Ph.D., of Harvard Medical School will study how pain fibers drive the production of interleukin-23 (IL-23), a protein linked to inflammation, to find new therapies for psoriasis inflammation.
  • Michael Rosenblum, M.D., Ph.D., of the University of California, San Francisco, will examine the role of a special class of regulatory T-cells involved in suppressing inflammation, in people with psoriasis. He aims to discover why these cells function abnormally in psoriasis to develop treatments to repair them and treat psoriasis.

Additionally, 10 researchers each received a one-year, $75,000 Discovery Grant for early-stage psoriatic disease research.

The Discovery Grant recipients and their projects are:

  • Rachael Clark, M.D., Ph.D., of the Brigham & Women's Hospital at Harvard University, will study T-cells, which are involved in inflammation, that remain in healed psoriasis lesions and compare them to T-cells in the same patient's skin before treatment. Clark hopes to determine if these T-cells are the root cause of psoriasis.
  • Dan Illkovitch, M.D., Ph.D., of University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, received the Ostrow Graff Family Discovery Grant to study an immune cell called myeloid‐derived suppressor cells, which have not been extensively studied in psoriasis. He will examine the role that these cells play in psoriasis, and examine whether they are affected by psoriasis treatment.
  • Jaehwan Kim, M.D, Ph.D., of The Rockefeller University will develop a blood test that can predict a person's treatment response to a biologic drug for psoriasis.
  • Averil Ma, M.D., of University of California, San Francisco, will examine how reducing the expression of the A20 gene, previously implicated in the genetics of psoriasis, may increase psoriasis risk. Studying how A20 functions in psoriasis could lead to treatments that are better tailored for people with variations of A20.
  • Pranab Mukherjee, Ph.D., of Case Western Reserve University, received the Lozick Discovery Research Grant to study the role of the skin microbiome and mycobiome, or microorganisms and fungi on the skin, in the development of psoriasis.
  • Haley Naik, M.D., of the National Cancer Institute dermatology branch, will study neutrophils, or cells thought to be a unique link between psoriasis, heart disease and diabetes. Naik hopes to uncover more about the role of these cells in psoriasis and their relation to psoriasis severity and related health risks.
  • Brian Poligone, M.D., Ph.D., of University of Rochester School of Medicine, received the Galderma Discovery Grant to study NF-kappa B—a transcription factor, or protein that binds to DNA, that regulates inflammation in the body. He will investigate the role of NF-kappa B in triggering psoriasis, and explore ways to control its activity.
  • Eva Reali, Ph.D., of Istituto Ortopedico Galeazzi in Milan, received the A. Marilyn Sime Discovery Grant to study the connection between pro-inflammatory T-cells in psoriasis skin and joint inflammation of psoriatic arthritis. Reali will define distinctive characteristics of these cells to hopefully create a biomarker, or biological sign, for the development of psoriatic arthritis in psoriasis patients.
  • Jubin Ryu, M.D., Ph.D., of University of California, San Francisco, aims to develop a new method for delivering biologic drugs, currently administered through injection or infusion, via a skin patch to allow for localized, less invasive treatment.
  • Eric Sundberg, Ph.D., of University of Maryland School of Medicine, hopes to create novel molecules that suppress interleukin-36 (IL-36), a protein that drives inflammation. These molecules could lead to the development of a new, targeted psoriasis treatment.
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