Joseph Craft, MD, Paul B. Beeson Professor of Medicine (Rheumatology) and professor of immunobiology has been awarded the 2022 Distinguished Innovator Award by The Lupus Research Alliance (LRA).
Craft studies T lymphocytes in cancer and upon vaccination and infection, and in autoimmune diseases, including systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE or lupus).
Lupus is an autoimmune disease that primarily affects young women of childbearing years. The immune system attacks self-tissues, such as the kidneys, skin, and other organs.
“Lupus is devastating, and it has a disproportionate impact upon individuals who have limited access to finances, limited access to healthcare, and individuals who may have poor socioeconomic circumstances compared to others in the population. It has a tremendous impact on marginalized communities.”
“It is known that immune cells, particularly T cells, enter the kidneys of lupus patients where they are thought to contribute to organ damage. However, the factors that transform T cells so they can enter the kidney and cause damage are not well defined,” explained Craft.
While there is no cure for lupus, there are treatments that can help. The ultimate goal of the research is to design better treatment therapies for patients. “We need to understand how the damage occurs in the first place,” stated Craft.
Craft has been studying lupus for nearly four decades. He directs a laboratory of 15 graduate and post-baccalaureate students, postdoctoral fellows and junior faculty members devoted to understanding basic cellular immunology in cancer and upon pathogen challenge, and in systemic lupus erythematosus. Craft emphasized, “Lab members are the heart and soul of this work, a terrifically talented group. I get interviewed, but they do the work.”
Using preclinical lupus models in parallel with kidney tissue samples from lupus patients, Craft lab members will determine how T cells undergo epigenetic and transcriptional changes to migrate to and damage the kidneys. “We're interested in how T cells evolve transcriptionally, how their genes are expressed and their epigenetic regulation,” he noted.
The LRA Distinguished Innovator Award provides $250,000 annually for four years. Craft’s work is funded by National Institute of Health (NIH) grants, one of which includes two, ten-year MERIT award, now beginning its 33rd year of continual funding. Most recently, Craft was recognized with the Joachim Kalden Award in Translational Immunology at the Lupus 21st Century meeting.
The Section of Rheumatology, Allergy, and Immunology is dedicated to providing care for patients with rheumatic, allergic and immunologic disorders; educating future generations of thought leaders in the field; and conducting research into fundamental questions of autoimmunity and immunology. To learn more about their work, visit Rheumatology, Allergy & Immunology.