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News Release

Colorado School of Public Health researcher receives $400,000 grant

7/20/2010
Jill Norris

AURORA, Colo. (July 20, 2010) – Jill Norris, PhD, MPH, professor
at the Colorado School of Public Health, has been awarded a $400,000 grant to study auto-antibodies, inflammation and cardiovascular disease in pre-clinical rheumatoid arthritis (RA).

Norris was named the recipient of an investigator-initiated grant from the American College of Rheumatology Research and Education Foundation’s (REF) Within Our Reach: Finding a Cure for Rheumatoid Arthritis campaign, which funds innovative RA research.

Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic disease that causes pain, stiffness, swelling, and limitation in the motion and function of multiple joints. Though joints are the principal body parts affected by RA, inflammation can develop in other organs as well. An estimated 1.3 million Americans have RA, and the disease typically affects women twice as often as men.

Cardiovascular disease is a major cause of mortality in patients with RA and often these patients suffer from earlier and more severe cardiovascular events than individuals without RA. Norris will use her grant to identify systemic markers of inflammation, biomarkers of cardiovascular risk and vascular abnormalities in the period prior to RA development in patients. She will utilize a cohort of healthy first-degree relatives of RA patients that she has been following prospectively for the development of RA-related autoimmunity.

“While the clinical hallmark of rheumatoid arthritis is joint disease, the major cause of mortality in patients with RA is cardiovascular disease,” said Norris. “Identifying factors associated with disease in the pre-clinical period of rheumatoid arthritis development will help us understand the causes of cardiovascular disease in these patients, as well as identify potentially modifiable factors for it so we can implement preventive strategies.”

Norris is one of nine rheumatoid arthritis researchers from leading institutions who will receive a total of $6 million from REF. This is the foundations fourth round of grants funded by the Within Our Reach: Finding a Cure for Rheumatoid Arthritis campaign, a $30 million national, multi-year fundraising effort.

“The goal of funding these types of research projects is to quickly move research from the laboratory to the clinic – where it can directly impact patient care,” said REF President, E. William St.Clair, MD, a rheumatologist at Duke University Medical Center.

The ACR Research and Education Foundation was established in 1985 as a 501(c)(3) with a mission to improve patients' lives through support of research and training that advances the prevention, treatment and cure of rheumatic diseases. Since its founding, the REF has grown into the premier private source of funding for rheumatology training and research in the U.S.

The new Colorado School of Public Health is the first and only school of public health in the Rocky Mountain Region, attracting top tier faculty and students from across the country, and providing a vital contribution towards ensuring our region’s health and well-being. Collaboratively formed by the University of Colorado Denver, Colorado State University, and the University of Northern Colorado, the Colorado School of Public Health provides training, innovative research and community service to actively address public health issues, including chronic disease, access to health care, environmental threats, emerging infectious diseases, and costly injuries.  

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Contact: Caitlin Jenney, 303.315.6376, caitlin.jenney@ucdenver.edu