Ann Theodore Foundation and Milken Institute Award Grants

Six teams share over $3 million for 2-year sarcoidosis research studies

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by Mary Chapman |

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The Ann Theodore Foundation and the Milken Institute have awarded more than $3 million to six research teams nationwide to study sarcoidosis topics ranging from risk factors for the poorly understood disease to its underlying mechanisms.

The Ann Theodore Foundation Breakthrough Sarcoidosis Initiative grant program seeks to understand the biology of sarcoidosis and learn more about its genetic, molecular, and immunological aspects. This year’s awardees will present their findings at an annual retreat and publish them in an open-access journal, according to a press release by the Milken Institute, a nonprofit organization.

Sarcoidosis is characterized by clusters of immune cells called granulomas that form in various parts of the body, often in the lungs. Symptoms can include difficulty breathing, irregular heartbeats, joint pain, eye inflammation, and fatigue.

Recipients of the two-year grants who lead the teams include:

  • Shaikh Atif, PhD, University of Colorado. The project aims to analyze the role of a common airborne fungus called Aspergillus nidulans in the development of Lofgren syndrome, an acute form of sarcoidosis. A mouse model of the fungus will also be created for future studies.
  • Jonathan Chrispin, MD, Johns Hopkins University. This project will seek to develop an algorithm that can use electrical recordings and heart images to predict patients’ risk of sudden cardiac death. It could lead to a better understanding of when medical intervention is needed.
  • Alejandro Pezzulo Colmenares, MD, University of Iowa. This study will utilize a noninvasive method to gauge how patients’ nasal cells respond genetically to the disease. This novel approach could ultimately help determine individuals’ prognosis and help scientists learn more about sarcoidosis.
  • Ravi Karra, MD, Duke University. This project aims to better understand the role of granulomas in forming sarcoidosis to learn more about disease risk factors.
  • Laura Koth, MD, University of California, San Francisco. This research aims to determine whether molecular factors that signal immune cell exhaustion and genetic aging are related to disease outcomes. A prognostic model will be developed that potentially could be used to predict outcomes in lung sarcoidosis.
  • Li Li, MD, PhD, National Jewish Health. This project aims to better understand how genetic modifications can affect disease progression and severity, which could provide a better understanding of which genes carry more risk for sarcoidosis development and severity.

The Milken Institute’s Center for Strategic Philanthropy and the Ann Theodore Foundation opened the grant program last year to advance discoveries to better understand the inflammatory condition, which particularly affects African Americans.

Each cycle, the program seeks to award four to six two-year grants to doctorate-level researchers. Projects are eligible for up to $460,000 over two years in direct and indirect costs. Interdisciplinary teams that include a sarcoidosis expert and a scientist from a separate field, but whose studies relate to the sarcoidosis project, may receive up to $575,000 in overall costs over two years.

Applications for the next round of grants are open to scientists at institutions globally through Jan. 10. Letters of intent are due on Oct. 26. Go here for the program’s request for proposals. For more information, send an email to [email protected].