September - October 2006

 

From the Chair, Medical & Scientific Advisory Council, Philip L. Cohen, MD

It’s that time of year again. The grant applications have arrived! This year we’re very happy to welcome to the Arthritis Foundation our new Chief Scientific Officer to lead the volunteers through the review and funding process. The Chief Scientific Officer position was created to direct all of the scientific affairs of the Arthritis Foundation and to lead the important research initiatives planned over the next few years. We are immensely fortunate to have recruited Dr. John Hardin for this key position. Dr. Hardin is highly respected in rheumatology and internal medicine. He was for many years the Chief of the Rheumatology Section at Yale School of Medicine, where he built one of the pre-eminent academic rheumatology research units. John A. Hardin, MD, with colleagues Joan Steitz, PhD, and Michael Lerner, MD, PhD, was awarded our very first Lee C. Howley Prize for Arthritis Research back in 1984 for pioneering work on the nature of the small nuclear ribonucleoprotein complexes recognized by SLE sera. These studies led to major insights into the nature of mRNA splicing as well as to important advances in immunology. Dr. Hardin left Yale to become Chairman of the Department of Medicine at his alma mater, the Medical College of Georgia. There he took bold steps to establish major research programs in molecular biology related to medicine. He went on to become Chairman of Medicine at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, where he remains Professor of Medicine and Consultant to NIAMS. Dr. Hardin brings vast knowledge and experience to his new position, together with wisdom, graciousness, and fairness.

John’s first official day on the job was September 1, coincidentally the same day the grant applications were due. This year, he has been greeted by 419 applications. Of course, the Foundation does not take its responsibilities lightly. The research program has requested $12 million to be doled out to the best of the best of those applications. At this point we estimate we will have enough money to fund 75 of these projects.

To determine which projects get funded for how much, the applications are split among some 80 volunteers from various scientific fields, including rheumatology, immunology, epidemiology, molecular biology, and cell biology. Once they have reviewed and scored the applications, all 80 reviewers will come together the last weekend of October in Dallas to discuss, deliberate, and perhaps argue about which applications represent the best projects.

Each scientist averages about 35 hours of time reviewing applications, for a grand total of approximately 2,800 hours volunteered to the Arthritis Foundation. This is time that these fine men and women take away from their own research, their own patients and their own families for the good of all people with rheumatic disease. We thank each and every one of them for their valuable contributions.

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