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Headshot of Dr. Sam Hwang in a blue border.
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Ripple Effects

NPF research funding builds lasting impact.

The National Psoriasis Foundation (NPF) is the leading non-profit funder of psoriatic disease research in the world. In addition to research, NPF advocates for the more than 8 million people in the U.S. who live with psoriatic disease while providing the latest in education and information.

In fiscal year 2023, NPF is projected to fund more than $3.5 million in psoriatic disease research grants and fellowships. NPF has funded many successful psoriatic disease research programs over the years. NPF funding often builds the foundation for investigators to pursue larger federal research grants.

Sam T. Hwang, M.D., Ph.D., Chair and Professor of Dermatology at the University of California, Davis School of Medicine, has been investigating the role of chemokines in the pathogenesis of psoriasis in animal models for over a decade. From 2011 to 2021 Dr. Hwang and his collaborator Brian F. Volkman, Ph.D., Professor of Biochemistry at the Medical College of Wisconsin, received Discovery, Translational, and Bridge grants from NPF to investigate the potential of targeting the CCL20-CCR6 chemokine pathway as a means of treating psoriatic disease.

CCR6 has been shown by Dr. Hwang’s group and others to be highly expressed on human and mouse T-cells that play a key role in producing cytokines such as interleukin (IL)-17 and IL-22 in skin affected by psoriasis. This research led to the utilization of an engineered variant of CCL20 - the ligand for the CCR6 receptor – that showed efficacy for treating both psoriatic dermatitis as well as arthritis in several mouse models.

This research was funded through an NPF Translational Research Grant titled “Translational investigation of a novel, engineered variant of CCL20 as a therapeutic agent for psoriasis.” This led to the founding of a biotech start-up called XLock Biosciences with the goal of exploring the therapeutic potential of the locked CCL20 dimer in psoriatic arthritis (PsA).

An NPF Bridge Grant awarded to Sam Hwang titled “CCR6 as a target for therapeutic intervention in psoriatic arthritis,” aimed to further this discovery. The Bridge Grant enabled the resubmission of a National Institutes of Health (NIH) R44 Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant, which achieved a highly meritorious impact score in peer review (18 on a scale of 10 to 90, with 10 being the best).

The most recent National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS) payline for SBIR grants was 29, which indicates a very high likelihood of funding in the amount of $1,986,561 over two years. This funding will support the research and development of the CCL20 variant and possibly next-generation CCL20 variants as potential therapeutics for PsA. When congratulating Dr. Hwang on this achievement, he replied:

“Brian V. and I couldn't have done this without NPF support. We feel very good about the interest this approach is getting and hope that the current locked dimer or even better versions can be applied to human disease. Because it is a natural product in a sense, we haven't seen any unexpected side effects in mice, and its similarity to the natural CCL20 makes it less likely that neutralizing antibodies will form. Hopefully, we’ll be able to get this into humans in a phase I trial at some point. The SBIR is meant to get us to that point but ultimately, we'll probably need investment from big pharma to do the human clinical trials.”

NPF is pleased to have supported the research of Drs. Hwang and Volkman that lead to this exciting discovery and its possible impact on the community of people living with psoriatic disease. NPF strives to fund early-stage cutting-edge research such as this, with the hope that significant advances will be made towards new treatments and a cure for psoriatic disease.

NPF has awarded over $30 million in research funding in recent years. Most recently, NPF announced the funding of two Bridge Grants.

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