Cure campaign serves dual purpose

September 1, 2006

The National Psoriasis Foundation used its national conference Aug. 4-6 as a platform to introduce the public phase of its $5 million Finding a Cure campaign.

The National Psoriasis Foundation used its national conference Aug. 4-6 as a platform to introduce the public phase of its $5 million Finding a Cure campaign.

"Research and advocacy enhance each other because, for starters, a very large part of biomedical research funding in the United States comes from the National Institutes of Health (NIH)," she says.

SEEDING NEW IDEAS

"We understand from the NIH that there aren't enough competitive, high-quality grant applications coming in to them," Ms. Zimmerman says.

Therefore, the campaign's goals include helping to seed new ideas so that scientists can make stronger grant applications.

Already, the campaign has raised $3.3 million from private sources. Ms. Zimmerman says the foundation hopes to raise the rest by July 2007, but the organization isn't waiting until then to start putting the funds to use.

"With this money we've been able to significantly advance our advocacy program," she says.

Specifically, Ms. Zimmerman says the foundation has hired a government-relations counsel who advises the organization on how best to educate Congress and the NIH about its needs and research efforts, as well as how to advocate in Washington for better access to treatments for patients.

"We've also initiated an annual Capitol Hill Day, which means that about 100 volunteers go with us to Washington, every year to educate Congress about our need for more funding," she says. This year's effort occurred in February; another is planned for Feb. 26-27, 2007.

BIOBANK TO HELP RESEARCHERS

In the coming months, she says the National Psoriasis Foundation also will initiate the National Psoriasis Victor Henschel BioBank.

"Through the BioBank, we will collect and make available genetic samples to qualified researchers," she says. The BioBank will begin with 2,000 samples, half of which will come from people with psoriasis and/or psoriatic arthritis. These will be the case samples, she says. The remaining half will come from people without psoriasis, to be used as controls for research.

Finding the genes that determine who develops psoriasis is essential to finding a cure, Ms. Zimmerman says. By the same token, she says that having access to an unprecedented repository of genetic material (starting with 2,000 samples and associated clinical data) will help scientists to confirm findings of earlier studies.

"We are very committed to genetic research. In 1992 we opened the National Psoriasis Tissue Bank," Ms. Zimmerman explains. "We collected several thousand blood samples, and through those samples scientists identified three genes on chromosome 17 that are responsible for psoriasis (Helms C et al. Nat Genet. 2003 Dec;35(4):349-56. Epub 2003 Nov 9)."

However, researchers said they'd need more samples to continue and expand the search.

"They believe there are at least 10 and possibly as many as 30 genes for psoriasis," Ms. Zimmerman says.

For more information: http://www.psoriasis.org/