FSR Small Research Grants Aim to Improve Patient Outcomes
Two university professors have each been awarded $25,000 small research grants from the Foundation for Sarcoidosis Research (FSR) to pursue projects aimed at improving outcomes for people with sarcoidosis.
Researcher Maneesh Bhargava, MD, PhD, of the University of Minnesota, will use the grant to focus on inflammation in sarcoidosis — generally treated with steroids that can cause severe side effects.
For Peter H. S. Sporn, MD, director of the Northwestern Sarcoidosis Center of Excellence at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, the grant will go toward investigating immune responses to COVID-19 vaccines.
The FSR Small Research Grant program supports relatively small-scale or pilot research projects with one-time $25,000 grants, the foundation said in a press release. The program’s aim is to provide both early career and established sarcoidosis investigators the support needed to engage in innovative research projects that might otherwise go unfunded.
“It’s exciting to see the development of sarcoidosis research through these small grants,” said Mary McGowan, CEO of FRS. “We look forward to the next steps from these research projects and the potential to improve outcomes in patients with sarcoidosis.”
Bhargava, a professor of pulmonary, allergy, critical care, and sleep medicine, was awarded for his proposal, titled “Comprehensive Assessment of Signal Transduction Pathways in Sarcoidosis.” His study seeks to provide a foundation for a new class of medicines, called kinase inhibitors, for treating inflammation in sarcoidosis.
While steroids such as prednisone are commonly prescribed for easing such inflammation, these medications often trigger unpleasant side effects, including weight gain, muscle weakness, and blurred vision.
In the study, inflammatory cells will be collected from lungs and blood. Then, computational analysis will pinpoint which kinases — enzymes involved in the activation of other proteins — lead to inflammation. The goal is to identify prospective kinase inhibitors that may be used to lower inflammation levels more tolerably than steroids.
As for Sporn, a professor of medicine, cell and developmental biology at Feinberg, the funding will further his project, “Assessment of the Immune Response to SARS-COV2 Vaccination in Sarcoidosis.”
Along with colleagues, Sporn is seeking to compare immune responses to COVID-19 vaccines in sarcoidosis patients against responses in healthy individuals. This study will involve patients who are being treated with immunosuppressive therapies, as well as those who are not receiving any treatment.
Specifically, the immune responses will be measured as the levels of coronavirus antibodies and the degree to which immune T-cells are activated by the virus. The hope is that the study will offer new information about the efficacy of COVID-19 vaccination in sarcoidosis patients. In turn, this could lead to new guidelines regarding booster vaccinations for this patient population.
There were 11 applicants for this year’s program, the most to date, according to the foundation. The FSR said it has invested more than $250,000 in the grant program since its 2018 inception.