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NIH awards $51 million to fight autoimmune diseases

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has awarded nine 5-year grants totaling approximately $51 million to expand research on autoimmune diseases, conditions where the body turns on itself.

The nine centers that make up the Autoimmunity Centers of Excellence (ACE) program will conduct clinical trials and basic research on new immune-based therapies for autoimmune diseases. This program will enhance interactions between scientists and clinicians in order to accelerate the translation of research findings into medical applications.

Collectively, autoimmune diseases afflict between 14 and 22 million Americans. "The expansion of this program from four to nine centers demonstrates NIH's strong commitment to this important public health concern," says Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., director, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), the lead institution funding this initiative. "This coordinated approach incorporates key recommendations of the NIH Autoimmune Diseases Research Plan (http://www.niaid.nih.gov/publications/autoimmune.htm) and will ensure progress in identifying new and highly effective therapies for autoimmune diseases."

Autoimmune diseases are caused by the misdirection of an immune response toward the body's own tissues. The principal role of the immune system is to defend against infection. The body has safeguards to prevent the immune system from attacking its own tissues, but when these safeguards are breached, an autoimmune disease can result.

Medical science has identified more than 80 clinically distinct autoimmune diseases, including systemic lupus erythematosus, type 1 diabetes, severe lupus nephritis, Sjogren's syndrome and multiple sclerosis. Those suffering with autoimmune diseases often endure loss of function, disability, hospitalizations, outpatient visits, decreased productivity and impaired quality of life.

The ACE ex
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Contact: Dominica Roth
droth@niaid.nih.gov
301-402-1663
NIH/National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
25-Sep-2003


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