Autoimmune Disease Initiative Receives $5.57 Million Grant

Seattle, WA

SEATTLE - (April 18, 2008) – Benaroya Research Institute at Virginia Mason (BRI) has been awarded just over $5.57 million from the Washington State Life Sciences Discovery Fund for a major new research initiative, named the Program for Autoimmune Disease Intervention (PADI).  Led by BRI Director Gerald Nepom, MD, PhD, this program will focus on applying genetic and immunologic discoveries to benefit patients with autoimmune diseases, such as Type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis and systemic lupus erythematosis.

Autoimmune diseases are caused when the body’s immune system makes mistakes, and attacks normal tissues. A leading cause of health problems and disability, some autoimmune diseases, such as multiple sclerosis, have a particularly high prevalence in Washington State.

“We expect to change the landscape of medical care options and bring immunological therapies to patients to dramatically improve quality of life,” said Nepom. “Our goal is to enhance scientific discovery, and provide Washington with a strong return on its Life Sciences investment through new potential biotechnology therapies and expanded clinical trial opportunities for people with Type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis and lupus.”

A team of program researchers will work to:
•    Pioneer immunologic staging or profiling as a tool for stratification of subjects eligible for clinical trials and therapies.
•    Create new therapeutic options and generate economic development in the state for new biotechnology opportunities.
•    Disseminate cutting edge therapeutic information to people in Washington with Type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis and lupus.
•    Educate physicians about new clinical trials and offer enrollment in innovative therapeutic clinical research.

Led by BRI, investigators from Virginia Mason Medical Center, the University of Washington and Children’s Hospital and Regional Medical Center will participate in the PADI initiative. Benaroya Research Institute was one of five organizations selected to receive LSDF 07-02 grant funding. Funding for the grants comes from Washington’s $350 million tobacco settlement bonus. The 07-02 grant competition is designed to foster the development of innovative programs in health research.

"This has been a highly-competitive process. The proposals were weighed on their scientific merits and their abilities to utilize this funding to provide statewide economic returns, to build a competitive life sciences industry and to advance the health of, and health care for, our citizens. These newly-awarded grants will leverage substantial additional investment in Washington State by a variety of other funders such as federal agencies and philanthropic organizations," said LSDF Executive Director Lee Huntsman.

The Life Sciences Discovery Fund, a Washington State agency established in May 2005, makes grant investments in innovative life sciences research to benefit Washington and its citizens. For more information on the Life Sciences Discovery Fund, visit:

Benaroya Research Institute at Virginia Mason (BRI), founded in 1956, works to unlock the mysteries of the immune system. Its team of world-renowned scientists is focused on identifying causes and cures for devastating diseases including diabetes, arthritis, heart disease and cancer. BRI is an international leader in immune system and autoimmune disease research with a focus on translating laboratory discoveries to real-life applications. For more information, visit

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