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Benaroya Research Institute receives 7-year award to lead Immune Tolerance Network

(Seattle, January 23, 2014) The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has awarded Benaroya Research Institute at Virginia Mason (BRI) a 7-year grant to lead the Immune Tolerance Network (ITN). The award, totaling $27 million annually, supports efforts to develop, coordinate and implement international clinical trials conducted by the ITN to evaluate novel therapies for transplantation, allergy and autoimmune diseases.

The Immune Tolerance Network (ITN) is a research consortium sponsored by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, part of NIH. ITN clinical and laboratory investigators conduct studies at more than 250 clinical sites in the U.S., Canada, England, Australia and Mexico. The ITN is led by Gerald Nepom, M.D., Ph.D., who is also director of BRI.

"This grant award enables the ITN to facilitate collaborative studies between academic, governmental and industry researchers across the landscape of immunologic disease," Dr. Nepom said. "Through its unique ability to assemble and guide these collaborations, the ITN is able to develop cutting-edge clinical trials and mechanistic studies in immune tolerance that would not otherwise be conducted. BRI is proud to have been selected by the NIH to lead this effort."

In addition to selecting BRI to lead the ITN, the award will support teams of clinical investigators and laboratory scientists in the U.S. and abroad who are evaluating specific immunological therapies in clinical trials carefully designed and integrated with mechanistic studies. Examples include studies to discontinue immunosuppression therapy in patients who receive kidney or liver transplants; to understand how patients can tolerate transplanted organs without drugs, to test novel immunobiologic agents in psoriasis, multiple sclerosis, lupus and type 1 diabetes; and to improve allergy desensitization therapies or prevent food allergy.

BRI is an international leader in researching causes of and treatments for type 1 diabetes and a myriad of other immune system and autoimmune diseases. Both Massachusetts General Hospital and the University of California, San Francisco, the previous ITN headquarters, will partner with BRI to manage ITN operations.

"This significant grant award to BRI speaks to the caliber of research being conducted in the Washington life sciences community," said Chris Rivera, president and CEO of the Washington Biotechnology and Biomedical Association. "Advancing immune tolerance solutions through the ITN adds an exciting dimension to BRI's scientific leadership and provides hope for patients fighting immune-mediated diseases through BRI's focus on accelerating research discoveries into clinical therapies."

The ITN mission is to advance knowledge and develop clinical therapies that will direct the body's immune response toward repairing tissue damage and reversing and preventing disease. The immune system plays a vital role in keeping our bodies healthy and protected from infection. However, autoimmune diseases such as type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis and lupus, among others, result when the immune system aberrantly attacks the body's own cells. Allergies result when the immune system overreacts to a substance that is generally harmless. Following organ or tissue transplantation, the body's immune system rejects the transplanted tissue, requiring the use of immunosuppressive drugs. In all of these examples, the ITN strategy is to re-educate the immune system to learn to stop this dangerous response, and to recognize the affected tissue as its own.

The ITN is also a leading innovator in clinical trial transparency, as well as data and sample sharing, through TrialShare, an online resource that provides access to underlying data, analyses and samples from ITN's clinical trials. The ITN TrialShare web portal addresses a critical gap in data sharing, making information available from research studies to anyone, so that results from clinical trials are fully accessible to the public. This effort represents a major step forward addressing a widespread concern that data from many pharmaceutical clinical trials is often never fully disclosed, potentially putting patients at risk or requiring unnecessary duplication of studies.


Contact: Kay Branz
Immune Tolerance Network

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