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Andras Perl gets NIH grant

NIH awards Upstate professor’s lupus clinical trial $7.2 million grant

An Upstate Medical University professor is the principal investigator on a lupus drug clinical trial that has been awarded a $7.2 million grant from the National Institutes of Health.

Upstate Division Chief of Rheumatology Andras Perl, MD, PhD, is leading the study, which is based at Upstate and involves 20 lupus centers from academic institutions around the United States including Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and the University of Rochester. This is the first NIH-supported multi-center clinical trial led by an Upstate professor.

The phase two trial involves systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), which is the most common and the most severe form of the four types of lupus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. SLE is a chronic inflammatory disease that affects 1.5 million Americans, according to the Lupus Foundation of America. This clinical trial will involve between 250 patients from across the United States, including many from Central New York. Each participant will take part for 13 months and the study is expected to last for five years. The trial is set to begin Oct. 1 but the start date is subject to change.

The grant awards SUNY Research Foundation about $1.5 million per year starting in 2020 through 2025 for a total of more than $7.2 million. Additional support for ancillary biomarker studies is pending.

“The awarding of this grant to Dr. Perl is the culmination of many years of basic and translational research by his lab on the promise of N-acetylcysteine in treating lupus, a hypothesis wholly driven by Dr. Perl’s insight,” said Upstate Vice President for Research David C. Amberg. “This is also a recognition of Dr. Perl’s preeminence in this field as one of the top clinicians in treating patients with Lupus and top researchers developing new treatments for this devastating disease that impacts 1.5 million Americans.”

SLE, which has no cure, often has debilitating and potentially life-threatening side effects. Medications to treat the disease can also cause severe side effects. Perl’s study, “Treatment of Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE) With N-acetylcysteine,” cites a depletion of glutathione, which is a substance made of three amino acids, in “lymphocytes of patients with SLE and associated this metabolic change with the elevation of the mitochondrial transmembrane potential.”

Participants will take pills twice daily—either the medication or a placebo—and the trial will closely monitor their condition. Participants will have a minimum of seven clinic visits and will donate blood for screening each time.

For more information about this clinical trial or to participate, call 315-464-1779. To learn more about clinical trials happening at Upstate, visit www.upstate.edu/healthcare/clinical-trials.php