The Strategic Pharma-Academic Research Consortium for Translational Medicine has awarded its first grants totaling more than $1.9 million to support research projects dedicated to autoimmune diseases. Among the recipients is researcher Yanjiao Zhou, Ph.D., who is leading a study at Washington University in St. Louis (WUSTL) focused on multiple sclerosis (MS), as announced in a press release.
The research team led by Dr. Yanjiao Zhou will study the function performed by gut bacteria within MS. Also working on the project are assistant professor of neurology Laura Piccio, M.D., Ph.D., and associate professor of microbial infection and immunology at Ohio State University Amy Lovett-Racke, Ph.D.
The initial grants were awarded by the consortium in collaboration with its industry partners Eli Lilly and Co. and Takeda Pharmaceuticals International Inc. to five research projects from medical research universities in the Midwest. Each awardee was given $400,000 for a two-year investment in accelerating research concerning not only for MS but also lupus, Crohn’s disease, dermatomyositis and scleroderma.
“There’s a true wealth of expertise on autoimmune disorders across our membership, but there really was not a large-scale group in the region focused on the topic until the creation of this consortium,” explained Anantha Shekhar, M.D., Ph.D., the director of the Indiana CTSI, associate dean for translational research at the IU School of Medicine and associate vice president for university clinical affairs at IU.
“We’re eager to help these scientists advance their critical work on these diseases — many of which are poorly understood despite their impact on millions in the U.S. and worldwide — and hope they may quickly translate into meaningful advances in treatment and therapy,” added Shekhar, as the consortium is dedicated to advancing research into autoimmune diseases with unmet medical needs.
In addition to Yanjiao Zhou’s research team, the recipients of the PARC grants selected by an independent governance council include Anthony R. French, M.D., Ph.D., an associate professor of pediatrics, pathology, immunology and biomedical engineering at WUSTL, and professor of pediatrics-rheumatology at Northwestern University, Lauren M. Pachman, M.D., who are both working on juvenile dermatomyositis.
Gwendalyn Randolph, Ph.D., professor of pathology and immunology, immunobiology and internal medicine at WUSTL, and the associate professor of internal medicine at Ohio State University Razvan Arsenescu, M.D., Ph.D., were also awarded for their research on intestinal fibrosis caused by Crohn’s disease.
The Strategic Pharma-Academic Research Consortium supports translational medicine that focuses on translating medical research findings from the lab and clinic into novel treatments, strengthening both public and private scientific sectors.