SOURCE: Lupus Foundation of America

July 09, 2015 09:00 ET

Lupus Foundation of America Announces 2015 Research Awards to Recognize & Support Developing Next Generation of Lupus Investigators

WASHINGTON, DC--(Marketwired - July 09, 2015) - The Lupus Foundation of America (Foundation) announced six new recipients of the Gina M. Finzi Memorial Student Summer Fellowships and the third annual Career Development Award. These research awards seek to develop the next generation of lupus scientific leaders by fostering an interest in lupus research careers.

The Foundation provides these fellowships and awards because federal funds-the largest funds available for lupus research-are disappearing, leaving investigators with no options but to pursue other career paths. This comes at a time when scientific findings have placed researchers on the brink of breakthroughs.

"Now, more than ever, it is essential that young, energetic investigators receive funding for vital lupus research," said Dr. Amr H. Sawalha, Research Subcommittee Chair of the Foundation's Medical-Scientific Advisory Council. "Their research has the potential to be the key to helping us solve the cruel mystery of lupus. Without the support of the Lupus Foundation of America, fostering tomorrow's leaders in lupus research may not occur."

Gina M. Finzi Memorial Student Summer Fellowship Program

This one-of-its-kind research fellowship program was established more than 25 years ago by former Lupus Foundation of America President, Dr. Sergio Finzi, in memory of his daughter Gina, who passed away from lupus. The program seeks to cultivate an interest in lupus research among young scientists by funding lupus research studies conducted under the supervision of an established investigator. The Foundation is the only lupus organization with a dedicated student summer fellowship program.

This year, six young scientists, chosen through a rigorous peer review process, were awarded fellowships to pursue research efforts in lupus. These students will use the funds to study critical areas of lupus research, including risk factors and biomarkers of lupus, the role of diet in lupus, and diagnostic tools and treatments for lupus.

The 2015 Gina M. Finzi Memorial Student Summer Fellowship recipients are:

Christina Austin

Research Intern, Lupus Center of Excellence

Allegheny Health Network

Mentor: Dr. Joseph Ahearn, Allegheny Health Network and Temple University School of Medicine

Project: Eosinophil- and basophil-bound C4d as lupus biomarkers

Melissa Bates

Ph.D. Candidate, Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition

Michigan State University

Mentor: Dr. James J. Pestka, Michigan State University

Project: Enhanced clearance of apoptotic cells for preventative effect of DHA in SLE

Michael Brown

Data Analyst, Arthritis & Clinical Immunology Research Program

Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation

Mentor: Dr. Courtney G. Montgomery, Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation

Project: Development of a patient-based tool which predicts SLE classification

Jennie Ann Hamilton

Ph.D. Student, Immunology Program

Graduate Biomedical Sciences

The University of Alabama at Birmingham

Mentor: Dr. John D. Mountz, the University of Alabama at Birmingham

Project: Induction of apoptotic cell reactive B cells by type I IFN in BXD2 mice

Jillian Jaycox

Undergraduate Research Assistant, Department of Immunology

University of Pittsburgh

Mentor: Dr. Mark Shlomchik, University of Pittsburgh

Project: Elucidating the Mechanism of B Cell Depletion Resistance in Lupus

Christina Poa

Medical Student

New York University School of Medicine

Mentor: Dr. Jill P. Buyon, New York University School of Medicine

Project: Plasma Mediators and Lupus Risk in Mothers of Children with Neonatal Lupus

These young scientists join the ranks of more than 200 Finzi Student Fellows that the Foundation has supported since the program's inception. The partnership between student and established investigator is an important component of this unique program. Recipients of this valued fellowship have advanced our understanding of lupus research in areas such as lupus-related cardiovascular disease, pregnancy, and biomarkers of lupus. They have earned M.D. and Ph.D. degrees and become medical practitioners and academic researchers, mentoring the next generation of Finzi Fellows.

Career Development Award

The Foundation's Career Development Award, now in its third year, supports the field of lupus research at a time when public and private funding opportunities are increasingly more challenging to secure. This is also a time when individuals in the early part of their careers must make critical decisions about their future paths. The Foundation created this award to facilitate the professional development of rheumatology, nephrology and dermatology fellows who are interested in careers as clinician-scientists at institutions that have a research program with a substantial focus on lupus. The award supports the work of these fellows as they transition from training to independent careers.

The Lupus Foundation of America awards the 2015 Career Development Award to:

Dr. Tamar Rubinstein

Fellow, Pediatric Rheumatology

Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University and Children's Hospital at Montefiore

Mentor: Dr. Chaim Putterman, Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Montefiore Medical Center

Project Title: Mood disorder and cognitive dysfunction in pediatric lupus

Neuropsychiatric lupus (lupus that affects the nervous system, including the brain) occurs earlier, more frequently, and with greater severity in children than in adults with lupus. Dr. Rubinstein will investigate a new biomarker found easily in the blood as a possible screening tool for the symptoms of neuropsychiatric lupus in children. She will also study the prevalence of these symptoms in children with lupus and the burden of disease.

Learn more about the Lupus Foundation of America's comprehensive approach to research at

About Lupus

Lupus is an unpredictable and misunderstood autoimmune disease that ravages different parts of the body. It is difficult to diagnose, hard to live with and a challenge to treat. Lupus is a cruel mystery because it is hidden from view and undefined, has a range of symptoms, strikes without warning, and has no known cause and no known cure. Its health effects can range from a skin rash to a heart attack. Lupus is debilitating and destructive and can be fatal, yet research on lupus remains underfunded relative to diseases of similar scope and devastation.

About the Lupus Foundation of America

The Lupus Foundation of America is the only national force devoted to solving the mystery of lupus, one of the world's cruelest, most unpredictable and devastating diseases, while giving caring support to those who suffer from its brutal impact. Through a comprehensive program of research, education, and advocacy, the Foundation leads the fight to improve the quality of life for all people affected by lupus. Learn more about lupus, the Lupus Science & Medicine Journal and the Lupus Foundation of America at For the latest news and updates, follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

About the Lupus Foundation of America Peer Reviewed Research Program

The Lupus Foundation of America is dedicated to addressing scientific issues that have obstructed lupus research for decades. Our research grant program focuses its support in areas of research where significant gaps in scientific knowledge about lupus exist, and where other public and private organizations are not focusing their efforts. The program supports growth in the field during a time when federal government funding opportunities are limited. Through our peer reviewed lupus research program, the Foundation directly funds lupus investigators to conduct studies in areas identified by our Medical-Scientific Advisory Council (MSAC).

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