The University of Texas System has awarded Laurence Morel, PhD, with a Faculty Science and Technology Acquisition and Retention (STARs) award in the amount of $1.4 million to establish a new research laboratory and program at UT Health San Antonio focused on systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE).
Dr. Morel, a noted SLE researcher, joined the institution in June 2022. She is a professor and department chair and the Zachry Foundation Distinguished Chair in Microbiology and Immunology in the Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Molecular Genetics in the Joe R. and Teresa Lozano Long School of Medicine at UT Health San Antonio.
“The creation of a new laboratory and the acquisition of cutting-edge instrumentation will be leveraged with the support from the institution as well as funding from the National Institutes of Health toward fundamental discoveries in the mechanism of this debilitating disease and their translation into better clinical management as well as novel therapeutics,” Morel said.
Morel’s laboratory will combine genetics, immunology, microbiology, chemistry and clinical research tools to understand why lupus patients produce antibodies that attack their organs. Her lab team will also collaborate with a team of investigators who have expertise in these fields and rheumatologists who take care of lupus patients to conduct a multidisciplinary approach toward basic and translational discoveries. Morel stated that this process also involves educating the next generation of biomedical scientists and a strong partnership with lupus patient advocacy groups as primary stakeholders.
“Over 90% of lupus patients are women, the majority of whom are African-American and Hispanic,” Morel shared. “Advancing research to further understanding of this disease and offering improved therapeutic options will contribute to better addressing health disparity issues.”
The University of Texas System Board of Regents established the STARs award program in 2004 to help attract and retain the best-qualified faculty. Multiple types of STARs awards support the enhancement of UT System institutions across the state.