Lupus Research Alliance announces recipients of the 2022 Distinguished Innovator Award focused on studying T cells in lupus

The Lupus Research Alliance (LRA) proudly announces the two outstanding recipients of the 2022 Distinguished Innovator Award (DIA): Hongbo Chi, PhD, and Joseph Craft, MD. Both awards are focused on studying distinct T cell populations in lupus which aligns with LRA's strategic objective to accelerate breakthrough treatments and ultimately find a cure through the power of precision medicine. The DIA provides investigators with up to $250,000 annually for a maximum of four years.

Dr. Chi is Member and Robert G. Webster Endowed Chair in Immunology at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. Dr. Craft is the Paul B. Beeson Professor of Medicine (Rheumatology) and Professor of Immunobiology, as well as the Investigative Medicine Program Director and Scientific Director of the Colton Center for Autoimmunity at Yale School of Medicine.

We are pleased to announce the recipients of the 2022 Distinguished Innovator Awards which have the potential to uncover new disease mechanisms and drug targets for innovative treatments of lupus."

Teodora Staeva, PhD., LRA Chief Scientific Officer

Exploring the metabolism of follicular helper T cells to understand lupus progression

Dr. Chi will build upon his previous findings, which showed that one type of T cell associated with lupus progression – T follicular helper (Tfh) cell – has a unique metabolism compared to other immune cells. Metabolism refers to the sum of chemical reactions taking place within each cell of a living organism that provide energy and biomass for all vital processes supporting survival - compared to other immune cells. Dr. Chi is investigating if the unique metabolic features of Tfh cells dictate their destructive behavior in lupus. These promising studies will reveal new information about how lupus develops and progresses, which may help identify innovative therapeutic targets for better lupus treatments.

Investigating processes enabling T cells to behave destructively in lupus nephritis

Lupus nephritis – inflammation of the kidney caused by systemic lupus erythematosus - is a common complication that can profoundly affect the quality of life and lifespan of lupus patients. It is known that T cells enter the kidneys of lupus patients and are thought to contribute to organ damage. Using mouse lupus models and kidney tissue samples from lupus nephritis patients, Dr. Craft will determine the factors that change T cells to enable them to enter the kidney and become toxic. This research will inform how harmful T cell populations inflict damage in kidneys, opening the door for new therapeutic targets and interventions, especially for lupus nephritis patients.

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