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Rheumatology Research Foundation Announces Recipients of International Research Collaboration Award


FOREUM/RRF Partnership Award Selected Rebecca Sadun, MD, PhD and

Eve Smith, MD, PhD for their Proposal to Research Childhood-onset Systemic Lupus Erythematosus


Atlanta, Ga. – (April, 2024) – The Rheumatology Research Foundation (the Foundation) awards its first FOREUM/RRF Partnership Award to recipients Rebecca Sadun, MD, PhD (Co-Pl) and Eve Smith, MD, PhD (Co-Pl). Jointly funded by FOREUM and the Foundation, this new award supports international (U.S. and Europe) research collaboration among investigators working on a joint project focused on rheumatic disease research.

The international collaboration will be led by Dr. Sadun in Durham, North Carolina (Duke University) and Dr. Smith in Liverpool, UK (University of Liverpool). Dr. Sadun from Duke University was awarded $200,000, and Dr. Smith from the University of Liverpool was awarded EUR 200,000, for two years for their project, “Childhood Systemic Lupus Erythematosus Treat-to-Target Analysis across Global Registries.”

Childhood-onset systemic lupus erythematosus (cSLE) is a rare autoimmune disease with a worse prognosis than adult-onset SLE that is understudied. Leveraging three existing registries with data on cSLE patients across North America and European sites, this research will bring together data to evaluate the feasibility of achieving cSLE Treat-to-Target (T2T) objectives, enhance the efficacy of these target goals in predicting outcomes and develop personalized prediction of target attainment to assist healthcare providers, patients and family in anticipating the timeframe required to attain target goals. This research project will ultimately lead to improved outcomes for patients with cSLE.

Dr. Smith expressed her gratitude, stating, “We are immensely honoured to receive the FOREUM/RRF Partnership Award. This recognition not only underscores the value of our research into childhood-onset Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (cSLE) but also highlights the pressing need for international collaboration to improve outcomes for this rare and challenging condition. With around 20% of lupus cases presenting in childhood, cSLE remains significantly under investigated as compared to adult-onset SLE (aSLE). This award is a crucial step towards harnessing the power of global data, accelerating the development of the Treat-to-Target (T2T) strategy in cSLE. Our preliminary work, supported by a PReS CARRA Collaborative Award, has set a strong foundation for this study. We are now poised to translate this groundwork into tangible outcomes, using international data to advance the evidence base and refine the T2T approach. Considering the severity of cSLE, with increased disease activity, greater steroid burden, permanent damage and mortality rates, as comparted to aSLE, it is time to evolve our treatment paradigms to significantly improve the monitoring and management of this disease, mitigating against the potentially devastating effects on young patients.”

Dr. Sadun added, “We are very excited to embark on this important project. Building upon earlier collaborations, we have a team of co-investigators and key collaborators helping us from the U.S. – Drs. Jennifer Cooper, Emily Smitherman, and Laura Lewandowski – and from Europe – Drs. Alexandre Belot and Michael Beresford. Together, we look forward to analyzing the data from thousands of children with lupus across more than 10 countries, taking advantage of machine learning approaches to answer important questions like how we should define ‘remission’ and what early findings predict long-term damage from lupus. This is an incredibly exciting opportunity to perform collaborative research that allows us to arrive at findings that exceed what any one of us could ever achieve alone.”

Applications were reviewed based on scientific excellence of applicants, innovation potential, impact and feasibility of the planned project, clear evidence of support and necessary research infrastructure. Inclusion of patient partners and synergy and enhancement of projects led by partnering research teams in U.S. and Europe were also considered when reviewing applications. Applications were assessed by reviewers from the Foundation and FOREUM, who came together for a joint meeting to finalize the awardee selection.  

“The call was highly successful, attracting numerous top teams eager to collaborate across the Atlantic. While only one project could now be funded, the initiative has sparked numerous new partnerships, promising future impactful scientific studies benefiting patients with rheumatic and musculoskeletal disorders,” said Rik Lories, MD, PhD, FOREUM Scientific Committee chair.

“FOREUM is proud to support for the first time an innovative research project, together with our sister-organization RRF. The many project proposals that were received indicate the urge and need for combined research on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. The chosen project is scientifically of the highest quality and in an area (childhood systemic lupus erythematosus) that really needs further scientific support. We wish the researchers all success,” said Hans Bijlsma, MD, PhD, FOREUM Board of Trustee President.

“The impetus for creating this partnership was to support impactful research requiring complementary expertise from investigators in the U.S. and Europe. We are grateful to the many scientists who spent numerous hours reviewing the meritorious applications submitted. The Foundation is proud to support Drs. Sadun’s and Smith’s proposal which will generate enduring resources to support research aimed at improving the health and wellbeing of children with lupus,” said Liana Fraenkel, MD, MPH, and President of the Rheumatology Research Foundation.


About the Rheumatology Research Foundation
The Rheumatology Research Foundation is the largest private funding source of rheumatology research and training programs in the U.S.  Established in 1985, the Foundation is focused on advancing patient care and accelerating discoveries in rheumatic diseases. More information about the Foundation can be found at

FOREUM Foundation for Research in Rheumatology is an independent entity committed to advancing research and promoting health for individuals with rheumatic and musculoskeletal diseases. Headquartered in Switzerland, FOREUM operates under the auspices of Swiss law and foundation regulations, ensuring transparency and adherence to the highest ethical standards. As a recognized non-profit organization, FOREUM channels its efforts into funding innovative research initiatives aimed at enhancing understanding, treatment, and ultimately, the quality of life for individuals affected by these conditions. Committed to fostering collaboration and knowledge exchange, FOREUM proudly collaborates with EULAR, The European Alliance of Associations for Rheumatology,, leveraging collective expertise and resources to drive impactful change. To learn more about FOREUM, visit our website at


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