Dr. Laura Belver receives one of the prestigious Lupus Innovation Awards from the Lupus Research Alliance

The Lupus Research Alliance has announced the nine international researchers that will receive this year’s Lupus Innovation Award. Among the winners is Dr. Laura Belver, from the Josep Carreras Institute, who will develop a new cell therapy targeting Systemic lupus erythematosus.

Dr. Laura Belver receives one of the prestigious Lupus Innovation Awards from the Lupus Research Alliance
Dr. Laura Belver receives one of the prestigious Lupus Innovation Awards from the Lupus Research Alliance

The Lupus Research Alliance (LRA) has awarded Dr. Laura Belver as one of the nine international researchers receiving one of this year’s Lupus Innovation Award (LIA). The awardees will conduct innovative research to uncover the underlying mechanisms and identify novel targets and pathways that could be harnessed to predict, monitor, and treat lupus, a complex autoimmune disease. The LIA provides investigators with enough resources to develop their research project for two years and aims to enable the development of more effective and safer therapies and address major barriers in lupus research.

Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) can affect several parts of the body and varies widely from person to person, often with severe complications. Current therapy involves mostly non-specific anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressive drugs. While these treatments are often beneficial, many patients may not see much improvement or suffer harmful side effects. The LIA supports pioneering approaches to these significant challenges in lupus research.

“We are pleased to award nine recipients of the 2023 Lupus Innovation Award”, noted Teodora Staeva, Ph.D., Vice President and Chief Scientific Officer of the LRA. “The latest group of LRA grant recipients will address a number of outstanding questions with the potential to lead to new treatments and tools to better diagnose and monitor disease progression for people with lupus.”

Among the awardees, Dr. Laura Belver, leader of the Leukaemia Immunooncology group at the Josep Carreras Leukaemia Research Institute, will develop a new cell therapy targeting one of the key aspects of SLE: previous research proved that people with lupus often have anti-DNA autoantibodies - produced by B cells - that mistakenly recognize their own DNA as a foreign invader. These autoantibodies can build up in the kidneys and other organs, causing inflammation, damage, and reduced function.

Dr. Belver will develop a chimeric autoantibody receptor (CAAR)-based cell therapy to eliminate B cells that produce anti-DNA autoantibodies. If successful, this method will remove disease-causing B cells while sparing healthy B cells, avoiding severe immunosuppression and providing a safe and effective treatment for people with SLE.

Other awardees include researchers from Canada, the Netherlands, USA and Spain who will develop parallel projects aimed at having a better understanding of the disease and testing other new and promising approaches.

About Lupus 

Lupus is a chronic, complex autoimmune disease that affects millions of people worldwide. More than 90 percent of people with lupus are women, often striking during the childbearing years of 15-45. Blacks/African Americans, Hispanics, Asians, and Native Americans are at two to three times greater risk than Caucasians for developing lupus. In lupus, the immune system, meant to defend against infections, produces antibodies that mistakenly recognize the body’s own cells as foreign, prompting other immune cells to attack and potentially damage organs such as the kidneys, brain, heart, lungs, blood, skin, and joints. 

About the Lupus Research Alliance 

The Lupus Research Alliance is the largest non-governmental, non-profit funder of lupus research worldwide. The organization aims to transform treatment by funding the most innovative lupus research, fostering diverse scientific talent, and driving discovery toward better diagnostics, improved treatments and ultimately a cure for lupus.