Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Monash Lupus research acknowledged with Distinguished Innovator Award

Professor Morand at the
LRI Forum for Discovery,
TimeLife building, Rockefeller Centre,
New York in October
Lupus patients are to benefit from research at Monash University thanks to an award of US$1 million.

Professor Eric Morand, Head of the School of Clinical Sciences at Monash Health and Head of Rheumatology at Monash Health has been awarded a highly competitive Distinguished Innovator Award in Lupus worth US$1 million.

An initiative of the Lupus Research Institute (LRI), the Distinguished Innovator Award is a global program for outstanding scientists to conduct novel research into the fundamental causes of lupus and drive towards a cure.

“Advances across many disciplines have led to novel treatments that aim to suppress the manifestations of lupus, yet few interventions are being developed that seek to reverse or prevent the disease,” said Ms Margaret Dowd, Lupus Research Institute President and CEO.

“LRI Distinguished Innovators will address this gap by pioneering research into the fundamental, causative pathways of lupus.”

Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE, or lupus) is a serious multisystem autoimmune disease,” said Professor Morand, who is also founder of the lupus clinic at Monash Health—Australia’s largest lupus-specific clinic.
“Patients with lupus, usually young women, can suffer severe illness and in some cases a shortened life expectancy due to the immune system damaging multiple organs.”
Currently the most widely used treatment for lupus is steroids, however, their harmful side effects are often worse than the disease itself.
Professor Morand’s research team is investigating proteins that separate the beneficial and harmful effects of glucocorticoids (also known as steroids).
“We hope to find a safer drug for the 70% of lupus patients who take chronic steroid therapy simply because there is no alternative.”
While an effective treatment for lupus, glucocorticoids can cause severe side effects including organ damage and increased mortality.
“Our research will explore whether a protein we recently discovered, GILZ, is a factor in causing lupus and if it can be used to develop a safer treatment with fewer side effects,” added Professor Morand.
Professor Morand said receiving the LRI award is one of his career highlights and the funding will enable his ambitious research plans to be expedited, building on the work of Dr Sarah Jones, postdoctoral scientist in the Morand group and collaborators including Dr Brendan Russ, University of Melbourne.
“I am thrilled that our profile at Monash University and Monash Health is recognised as a centre for excellence in lupus research.”

“Our work also builds on the founding principles of the Monash Health Translation Precinct (MHTP), relying not only on our first-class research facilities but also on co-location of the laboratories with the Monash Lupus Clinic. 

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