The Colton Center for Autoimmunity awards grants to six Yale projects

Yale’s Colton Center for Autoimmunity has awarded grants to six innovative research projects that show the potential to develop new diagnostics and therapeutics and provide new insights into the mechanistic underpinnings of autoimmune diseases.

Established in 2019 through a generous gift from Judith and Stewart Colton, the center is dedicated to advancing Yale’s translational research in autoimmune diseases with the goal of developing therapies, diagnostics, and prophylactics. It provides strategic support for innovative early-stage research that has commercialization potential, but which otherwise may not grow due to lack of funding.

This year’s funded projects and principal investigators include:

  • Targeting HIF1 to treat discoid lupus erythematosus: Dr. Alicia Little, Assistant Professor of Dermatology, will explore the role and therapeutic targeting of the HIF1 transcription factor in T-cell induced skin damage in lupus.
  • Unbiased characterization of antigenic targets underlying autoimmunityy: Dr. David Hafler, William S. and Lois Stiles Edgerly Professor of Neurology and Professor of Immunobiology, will sequence T cell receptors (TCRs) from migrating T cells and perform personalized self-antigen screens for deorphan TCRs from patients with multiple sclerosis identify antigens for immunotherapy.
  • Define the roles of a targetable kinase in autoantibody production: Carrie Lucas, Associate Professor of Immunobiology, will investigate how human kinase deficiency informs B cell biology with the goal of identifying a therapeutic target for manipulating the pathogenic autoantibody response in lupus.
  • Pathogenic antibodies in pediatric obsessive-compulsive neuro-inflammatory disorder of rapid onset: towards a clarification of nosology and the development of new diagnostic tests: Dr. Christopher Pittenger, Elizabeth Mears and House Jameson Professor of Psychiatry, will use innovative methodologies to identify autoantibodies that may contribute to pediatric rapid-onset obsessive-compulsive disorder, with the goal of moving toward precision diagnostics and personalized treatments.
  • Molecular imaging in autoimmunity: Dr. Mehran Sadeghi, professor of medicine (cardiovascular medicine), will develop a new non-invasive molecular imaging approach in autoimmunity.
  • Novel SPECT/CT Imaging to Evaluate a PPARγ Agonist for Reversing Pulmonary Hypertension in a Mouse Model of Systemic Sclerosis: Stephanie Thorn, Medical Research Scientist (Cardiovascular Medicine), will evaluate new non-invasive SPECT imaging techniques for fibrosis and angiogenesis to assess disease progression and potential treatment for systemic sclerosis.

More than 23 million people in the United States have autoimmune diseases, and the numbers continue to rise each year. A lack of clear understanding of their causes limits the development of safe and effective therapies and diagnostic tools. Researchers supported by the Colton Center will fill this knowledge gap.

Yale researchers say support from the new center has given them the opportunity to conduct high-risk, potentially transformative translational research that is too early to be considered by extramural funding agencies or industry partnerships. Since its creation in 2019 and the launch of researcher funding in 2020, the center has supported 15 projects, including those that have led to the development of intellectual property.

The Colton Center has had a positive impact on our research program that goes beyond funding. This has directly influenced our scientific direction by encouraging us to examine the molecular processes underlying autoimmunity,” said Anna Marie Pyle, Sterling Professor of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology and Professor of Chemistry at Yale. “Until recently, work in my lab focused exclusively on the opposite problem: how the innate immune system is activated in response to viral infection. But now we wonder what happens when these same antiviral pathways become dysregulated, leading to autoimmune disorders.

By learning to fully tune the innate immune system (by developing tools to turn it off and on), one can develop robust pharmacological approaches to autoimmunity, antitumor responses, and panviral therapies.

The center also encourages interdisciplinary research that actively bridges the gap between research and application, said Dr. Joseph Craft, Paul B. Beeson Professor of Medicine at Yale, professor of immunobiology and director of the center.

Working with a diverse advisory board of experts from academia, venture capital firms, the pharmaceutical industry, and technology transfer at Yale Ventures, we evaluated numerous proposals from various academic disciplines at Yale that address unanswered questions in the field of autoimmunity,” said Craft, who also runs an independent research laboratory dedicated to basic immunology and the study of systemic lupus erythematosus. “I’m thrilled with the range of autoimmunity-focused research the Colton Center at Yale has been able to reward this year, and we look forward to following their progress.”

Funded projects are monitored for their translational potential, intellectual property development, and partnership opportunities for startups, biotech companies, and pharmaceutical companies.

We are very grateful for the support of the Colton family and the Colton Center for Autoimmunity at Yale,” said Dr. Mary Tomayko, associate professor of dermatology and pathology at Yale and director of the Yale Immunobullous Clinic. “Our goal is to identify new therapeutic approaches for the treatment of cutaneous autoimmunity related to cancer treatment. Funding for Colton’s pilot project and the astute intellectual critiques of his advisory board were essential during the precarious early stages of this work. Thanks to Colton’s support, we are making observations that are already beginning to improve the quality of life for autoimmune people.

Dr. Ian Odell, Assistant Professor of Dermatology, holds a grant with a joint project with Richard Flavell, Sterling Professor of Immunobiology and Howard Hughes Medical Institute researcher. “Funding from the Colton Center has allowed us to translate our fundamental scientific discoveries into the development of a new treatment for fibrosis,” Odell said. “We highly appreciate the opportunity to make a difference for our patients that the generous funding has enabled.”

The Colton Center works closely with Yale Ventures in the identification, protection and licensing of intellectual property resulting from funded projects. “Yale Ventures is dedicated to supporting translational research that addresses widespread health issues like autoimmune diseases, so we are grateful for the work Dr. Craft is doing to advance this area,” said Josh Geballe, Director CEO of Yale Ventures. “Congratulations to each of the 2022 winners. We look forward to seeing you move forward with your plans for the greatest impact on patient outcomes. »

See more information about the 2022 fellows and their research, past fellows, and the Colton Center for Autoimmunity at Yale.

A new round of funding will be offered in 2023, with a request for proposals to be released in fall 2022.

Inquiries or questions regarding the Yale Colton Center for Autoimmunity can be sent to: [email protected]

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