PITTSBURGH, Sept. 24, 2014 – The National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced today that it has awarded five-year grants to 11 research centers across the United States in a private-public partnership designed to better identify and develop new diagnostics and drugs for rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and lupus. The Division of Rheumatology and Clinical Immunology of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, led by chief Larry W. Moreland, M.D., has been chosen as one of the research sites – the only one between the states of New York and Colorado.

“From our perspective, this is a tremendous collaborative effort involving physicians and researchers across disciplines, including basic scientists, clinical researchers, orthopaedic surgeons, radiologists and numerous clinical rheumatologists,” said Dr. Moreland. The lab of Mandy McGeachy, Ph.D., assistant professor of medicine, will direct the basic science effort for the Pitt team.

Under this NIH Accelerated Medicines Partnership:

  • Pitt’s research team will collect data from a large group of patients already participating in NIH-funded research. The project aims to unravel biological pathways involved in RA by examining surgical tissue samples, performing ultrasound-guided biopsies of inflamed joints, and utilizing specialized tissue processing for immune-cell analytics, as well as conducting other tests. The team also has proposed a clinical study in which patients who haven’t responded to first-line therapy with methotrexate will be randomized to receive a biologic therapy.
  • Members of the 11 network centers – totaling 18 principal investigators – will collaborate as a consortium, starting with a meeting scheduled for the end of October.
  • The incentivized research plan consists of a seed grant from the NIH, which then may award larger sums moving forward dependent upon the progress of the research and further studies to follow.

The NIH news release can be found on its site.