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Prestigious NIH Award Announced in Support of Clinical Research in Rheumatology

Drs. Vivian Bykerk, Lionel B. Ivashkiv, and Alessandra B. Pernis of the Division of Rheumatology will serve as key researchers in one of the 11 research groups across the United States that comprise the NIH AMP Program. As newly appointed members of the Accelerating Medicines Partnership in Rheumatoid Arthritis and Lupus (AMP RA/Lupus) Network, Drs. Bykerk, Ivashkiv, and Pernis will drive clinical research that "promises to lead to more diagnosis and treatment options for rheumatoid arthritis and lupus," says Director of the NIH's NIAID, Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., who trained at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medicine and served as a Chief Resident in the Weill Department of Medicine. Rheumatoid Arthritis and Lupus, which can be devastating, are relatively common and severe autoimmune diseases.

Dr. Vivian Bykerk

The AMP RA/Lupus initiative was developed by Francis Collins, M.D., Ph.D., Director of the NIH, and involved a highly competitive submission process, with applications received from medical centers all across the country. Drs. Bykerk, Ivashkiv, and Pernis, who hold primary affiliations with the Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS), successfully organized and devised a clinical research plan in rheumatology that won funding from the NIH, in what is an NIH public-private partnership, in part supported by additional stakeholders including philanthropic and patient foundations and industry partners. The researchers at HSS are focused on uncovering novel biological pathways, including those at the single cell level, and will utilize tissues and blood cells from patients with RA. An important goal of the program is to integrate data from multiple genome-wide analytic approaches to generate a comprehensive understanding of the mechanisms of tissue damage in RA and lupus. Data from the AMP project will be made broadly available to the biomedical research community in an effort to dramatically accelerate diagnostic markers and potential targets for drug development.

As part of their project, Drs. Bykerk, Ivashkiv and Pernis, will be working with the NY Genome Center (Dr. Robert B. Darnell) in New York City, thus establishing a formal link between HSS and the NY Genome Center. Dr. Bykerk will be attending a steering committee meeting at the NIH in October, along with other participating center leaders, to coordinate plans for the project serving on the working group of the overall project team. Says Dr. Bykerk, "This is a novel nationwide collaborative approach to translational research that will bring together the strengths from many research groups towards a common cause. Funding to HSS through the NIH AMP program provides us with an important opportunity to contribute to potential breakthroughs in understanding autoimmunity, advancing the aims of personalized care, and finding solutions for the many RA and lupus patients whose disease course has been difficult to predict or control."

Mary K. Crow, M.D., Physician-in-Chief and Chair of the Department of Medicine at HSS, and Chief of the Division of Rheumatology in the Weill Department of Medicine, states: "We are delighted that our physician-scientists are part of this highly competitive program sponsored by the NIH and we look forward to the discoveries ahead that will benefit patients who are suffering with the challenging diseases of rheumatoid arthritis and lupus."