Dr Paula Gonzalez-Figueroa has been awarded the Elizabeth Greene Industry Development Award to help fund her drug development project at the Centre for Personalised Immunology (CPI).
Philanthropist Peter Yates AM and his family established this program in honour of his half-sister Elizabeth Greene, who died from lupus.
Lupus is an autoimmune disease characterised by the production of antibodies, also known as autoantibodies, that instead of controlling infections, target the patient’s own cells, causing inflammation, pain and tissue damage.
There are no cures for autoimmune conditions. Current treatments are broad spectrum and often have many adverse side effects.
During her PhD, Dr Gonzalez-Figueroa found that a neuropeptide can reduce the frequency of antibody-producing plasma cells in mice models of autoimmune disease, without the severe side effects often associated with traditional treatment.
The results can have huge implications in the development of treatments targeting autoimmune diseases, which affect more than 5% of people globally.
Since she graduated mid-2019, Paula has been a Postdoctoral Researcher in the Vinuesa Laboratory, continuing her work on understanding how this neuropeptide acts as a break in our immune system to control the emergence of autoantibodies.
Dr Gonzalez-Figueroa expressed her gratitude to Mr Yates for his generosity in honour of his half-sister and spoke of her own personal connection to autoimmune diseases.
“This [project] allows us to have a positive impact for so many families, including mine. My mother suffered from autoimmune disease for a long time before being diagnosed with lupus” said Dr Gonzalez-Figueroa.
Pictured: Mr Peter Yates AM presenting the Elizabeth Greene Award to Dr Paula Gonzalez-Figueroa.
This award will allow Dr Gonzalez-Figueroa to conduct much needed additional projects in demonstrating the efficacy of this novel biotherapeutic in mouse models of lupus and extend this study into other autoimmune diseases.
“We aim to improve the way we treat autoimmune diseases” said Dr Gonzalez-Figueroa.