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Foundation Awards $1.65M to Research COVID-19 Effects on Rheumatology Patients

January 9, 2021

ATLANTA -  The Rheumatology Research Foundation (Foundation) has awarded $1.65M to fund five research studies exploring the relationships between rheumatic diseases and SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, as well as the pandemic’s effect on health care delivery. Ultimately, insights gained from this body of research will be used to improve outcomes in rheumatic disease patients.

A recent review of medical research published on over 1400 patients from the fields of rheumatology, gastroenterology and dermatology suggests outcomes for most people with autoimmune, inflammatory disorders are less severe than originally anticipated, although some cases can cause serious illness. Our current understanding of why there are differences in severity of COVID-19 illness among rheumatology patients is limited. In addition to this example, there are many other gaps in our knowledge of the clinical aspects of SARS-CoV-2 infection in patients with rheumatic diseases, and how the pandemic has changed health care delivery. 

To gain more clarity, the Foundation issued a Notice of Special Interest in April addressing the urgent need for research evaluating relationships between COVID-19 and rheumatic and musculoskeletal diseases.

“It has been very gratifying to see the Foundation’s capability and strength in pivoting and creating new approaches to funding COVID-related research,” said Foundation president S. Louis Bridges Jr., MD, PhD.  “Ultimately, the outcomes of these projects will contribute to a more comprehensive knowledge base and advance avenues of patient care in the COVID-19 pandemic.”

This novel research adds to the existing, extensive portfolio of other research funded through the Foundation's Awards and Grants program. The five COVID-related studies that will be funded are: 

Kristin D'Silva, MD

Massachusetts General Hospital 

Scientist Development Award

Respiratory Complications of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) in Rheumatic Diseases

Rebecca Haberman, MD

NYU Grossman School of Medicine

Scientist Development Award

COVID-19 in Patients with Inflammatory Arthritis: A Prospective Study on the Effects of Immunomodulatory Therapy on Susceptibility and Clinical Outcomes

Jason Knight, MD, PhD

University of Michigan

Innovative Research Award

Antiphospholipid Antibodies in COVID-19

Maria Danila, MD, MSc, MSPH

University of Alabama, Birmingham

Innovative Research Award

Effectiveness of Tele-rheumatology for Delivering High Quality Rheumatology Care During the COVID-19 Crisis

Swamy Venuturupalli, MD, FACR

Attune Health

Norman B. Gaylis, MD, Clinical Research Award

Telehealth-delivered HealthcaRe to Improve Care (THRIVE) in Community-Practice Rheumatology

As the largest private funding source for rheumatology research and training in the U.S. the Rheumatology Research Foundation is dedicated to providing funding for innovative ideas that advance treatment options, improve care, and impact the lives of the 54 million Americans living with rheumatic disease. In the most recent fiscal year, the Foundation distributed more than $11 million in grant awards focused on research, education, and workforce development within the field of rheumatology.


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