23andMe, a personal genetics company based in Mountain View, Calif., has launched the Lupus Research Study in collaboration with Pfizer. The companies aim to enroll 5,000 individuals with systemic lupus erythematosus, more commonly known as lupus, into the study to help better understand the genetics of lupus. The effort also is in collaboration with the Lupus Research Institute and in concert with Lupus Awareness Month in May.
Approximately 1.5 million people in the U.S. suffer from lupus, an autoimmune disease in which the immune system can attack the normal, healthy tissues of the body almost anywhere. Some of the more common symptoms include joint inflammation, skin rashes and sores, as well as kidney, heart, and lung damage. While the cause of lupus is unknown, research indicates that it is linked to a number of factors, including genetics, hormones and environmental factors. There is no known cure for the disease.
"The ability to effectively personalize treatments for lupus patients is limited, due in large part to our incomplete understanding of the disease," said Anne Wojcicki, 23andMe CEO and co-founder. "We hope to change that by studying human genetics alongside environmental and health history factors to ultimately help inform better treatment options for lupus patients."
In addition to genetic information and survey questions, 23andMe will incorporate data from participants' medical records into this research study after obtaining their consent. This data will be used in the analysis of longitudinal surveys with participants over the course of one year.
"Pfizer is committed to bringing forward new treatments for patients suffering from lupus," said Belen Carrillo-Rivas, D.Phil., head of R&D innovation projects, bioTherapeutics R&D, Pfizer. "By enhancing our understanding of the underlying biology of the disease, we hope to better support our clinical research activities and development programs."
The study will look to uncover possible underlying genetic causes of lupus, specifically those associated with the onset, progression, severity and response to treatments for lupus. For the lupus study, 23andMe will recruit new participants as well as conduct outreach to existing customers, who once determined eligible, will be required to provide consent to participate in this new project.
"Lupus is an unpredictable and devastating disease for which the treatments can be as debilitating as the disease itself," said Margaret Dowd, president and CEO, Lupus Research Institute. "Research on human genetics has enormous potential to deliver information that can help improve lupus treatment. The more insights that researchers can gain, the faster safer drugs can be developed. We look forward to working with 23andMe and Pfizer as we continue our efforts to educate and engage people with lupus on the importance of participating in research as one of the most powerful ways to take action against lupus."
Recruitment of eligible study participants is expected to be completed by mid 2016.