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National Psoriasis Foundation-backed researcher secures $1.9 million federal grant

A three-time National Psoriasis Foundation grant recipient, researcher Nicole Ward, Ph.D., of Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine in Cleveland, has secured a five-year, $1.9 million federal grant to investigate whether a key protein in the regulation of the immune system known as interleukin-17C (IL-17C) also plays a role in the development and progression of psoriasis.

The award—from the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, the federal agency of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) that researches diseases of the bones, joints, muscles and skin—will enable Ward to build on her previous studies that suggest a relationship between IL-17 and TNF-alpha, another protein associated with the development of psoriasis.

Earlier this year, Ward and colleagues published an article in the Journal of Immunology that reported psoriasis patients have elevated levels of IL-17C in their skin. Following treatment with TNF-alpha inhibitors, IL-17C levels drop rapidly, even before the skin visibly improves. This discovery suggests that the presence of IL-17C and TNF-alpha are critical for the development of the disease. Ward now hopes to identify how IL-17C interact with other molecules involved in inflammation to cause disease, a discovery that could identify a new target for drug development.

This is the second federal grant Ward has received in the last eight months. In September, Ward received a $1.8 million NIH grant to investigate the connection between psoriasis and cardiovascular disease. She began that project with two $50,000 National Psoriasis Foundation Discovery Grants–one in 2009 and a second in 2010–that enabled her to gather enough data to apply for and receive the grant.

"The support from the National Psoriasis Foundation Discovery Grants over the years has been significant in my career development. The initial Foundation investment has paid back enormously in nearly $4 million in federal grants to continue my psoriasis research," said Ward. "Without the early support of the NPF, I wouldn’t have been able to generate all the data I needed to successfully compete for and receive these NIH grants."

National Psoriasis Foundation Discovery Grants, awarded annually, are intended to lay the groundwork for additional long-term funding from the NIH and other funding agencies. Help the Foundation support additional research that will bring us closer toward a cure.

Learn about other NPF funded research »

April 23, 2013

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