With the recruitment of Dr. Maria Kontaridis, Executive Director and Gordon K. Moe Professor at the Masonic Medical Research Institute (MMRI), research focused on autoimmunity—specifically Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (lupus)—became a priority. Little did Dr. Kontaridis know that just 23 miles away, in Verona, NY, an all-volunteer national patient advocacy organization called The Lupus and Allied Diseases Association, Inc. (LADA) was busy raising funds and awareness for these diseases.
In 2020, news of Dr. Kontaridis’ receipt of the Lupus Impact Award from the Department of Defense sparked LADA’s awareness of her research at MMRI. Indeed, LADA President and CEO, Kathleen A. Arntsen, and Dr. Kontaridis had already met years earlier at an annual Lupus Research Alliance conference in New York City! “It is amazing that after all these years Kathleen and I reconnected here in Central New York. This is a wonderful opportunity for us to work together to improve the lives of those living with lupus,” said Dr. Kontaridis.
In September, MMRI hosted LADA for a presentation of lupus-related research projects and a tour of its laboratory research space. The visit to MMRI was preceded by an invitation from LADA for MMRI to join them for their annual Lupus Charity Golf Classic event in August, where MMRI was surprised to be awarded with a $25,000 grant to support Dr. Kontaridis’ work on the DOD lupus project. “We were excited to learn about the innovative research that Dr. Kontaridis and the MMRI team are doing regarding lupus, especially since we too were instrumental in garnering the DOD’s support for the Lupus Impact Award Program,” said Kathleen Arntsen. “In fact, this was a reunion of sorts, as we were previously honored to support lupus research at MMRI from 1990-1999 in our capacity as the LFA, Marguerite Curri Chapter, providing the lab with $40,000 in research funds. We are thrilled that lupus research has returned to Central New York and hope that the dedication and expertise of MMRI’s scientists will help us identify potential new therapies to treat people with lupus and allied diseases to improve lives.”