OMRF receives $3.3 million to study rheumatic diseases

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

by Ken Raymond

The Oklahoman

The Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation has received a $3.3 million grant to study rheumatic diseases.   

The five-year grant, awarded by the National Institutes of Health, will allow scientists to build on current studies into joint and connective diseases and support and fund pilot projects.   

“Rheumatic diseases, including lupus, arthritis and Sjogren’s syndrome, severely diminish the quality and length of life in patients,” said Dr. Judith James, lead researcher on the project, in a news release.  

“This grant allows us to expand our efforts to better understand these diseases and find new ways to fight them.”   

The grant will support in part OMRF’s new bio-repository, a massive freezer complex which holds more than a million patient samples collected over 30 years at temperatures as low as minus 80 degrees Celsius. The bio-repository has room for about 4 million more specimens.   

Seeking pilot projects
Thanks to the grant, more patients and health control subjects likely will give samples and enroll in medical studies, according to the release. The money will help support a database of coded sample information linked to historical data. Investigators can use the samples to understand disease processes and seek new ways to identify people at highest risk of developing a rheumatic disease.   

The funding also will help make phenotyping and genetic sequencing resources available to researchers who wouldn’t otherwise have access, such as junior investigators, James said in the release. Such tools are vital to securing future grants.   

OMRF will accept applications for pilot projects over the next five years. The top two will receive funding.   

“Pilot projects help researchers who are just starting out begin new, groundbreaking research,” James said.   

“Even those who aren’t selected will take part in a mentoring and enrichment program. We help them … gather the kind of preliminary data necessary to compete for federal funding.”