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Patti LaBelle Wows Crowd at 5th Annual Lupus Foundation of America Awards Gala

CNN Anchor Soledad O'Brien served as Master of Ceremonies for Event to Increase National Attention and Resources for Lupus

Gala raised nearly $1.5 million for lupus research and education programs

WASHINGTON, May 8 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Grammy Award-winning performer Patti LaBelle entertained a crowd of 600 here at the annual Lupus Foundation of America Awards Gala last night with her signature passion and distinctive high-octave vocals. The awards gala raised nearly $1.5 million to support lupus research and education programs, which benefit the millions of people who suffer from lupus and the families who support them.

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CNN Anchor and Special Correspondent Soledad O'Brien served as the Master of Ceremonies for the Gala, which honored U.S. Senator Tom Harkin, (D-Iowa); Sheila C. Johnson, CEO of Salamander Hospitality, LLC; and Elliott Sigal, M.D., Ph.D., President of Research and Development, Executive Vice President, and Chief Scientific Officer of Bristol-Myers Squibb. The honorees were recognized for their efforts to bring national attention and resources to lupus, a devastating and life-threatening disease that affects more than 1.5 million Americans and five million people worldwide.

Dr. Gary Gilkeson, Chair of the LFA Medical-Scientific Advisory Council, announced the establishment of the Michael Jon Barlin Pediatric Lupus Research Program, funded by the Wallace H. Coulter Foundation and dedicated to unlocking the mysteries of pediatric lupus. The research initiative is named in memory of Michael Jon Barlin, who at age twenty-four lost his courageous ten year battle with lupus. As the first and only initiative of its kind, the Michael Jon Barlin Pediatric Lupus Research Program is an integral part of LFA's strategy to focus resources in research areas that hold great promise to bring down barriers and advance the treatment, prevention and cure of lupus.

Presenting the awards were Louis B. Susman, Vice Chairman of Citigroup Corporate and Investment Banking; Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH); and Sally Susman, Senior Vice President & Chief Communications Officer, Pfizer Inc. Notable guests included Ann and Vernon Jordan, Angela Burt-Murray, Editor-in-Chief, Essence Magazine; Randall Winston, Executive Producer, "Scrubs," and a LFA Board Member; and Mercedes Yvette, 2004 Runner-up, America's Next Top Model.

U.S. Senator Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) and Dr. Annette Shelby and Congressman John Dingell (D-Mich.) and Debbie Dingell were the 2008 Honorary Chairs. U.S. Senator Robert Bennett (R-Utah), Congressman Kendrick Meek (D-Fla.) and Leslie Meek, Esq. were the Honorary Co-Chairs.

Lupus is a chronic disease in which the immune system attacks the body's own healthy tissue and organs, which can lead to debilitating pain, organ failure, and death. The disease strikes mostly young women in the prime of their lives, and disproportionately strikes young women of color, especially African Americans, Latinos, Native Americans and Asians, a health disparity that remains unexplained. Despite the prevalence of lupus, there has not been a new treatment approved for the disease for more than four decades.

The Lupus Foundation of America is the nation's foremost national nonprofit voluntary health organization dedicated to finding the causes of and a cure for lupus, and providing support and services to all people affected by lupus. The LFA has a nationwide network of more than 300 chapters, branches and support groups and conducts programs of research, education, and advocacy.

SOURCE Lupus Foundation of America
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