Jackson Laboratory predoctoral student earns Lupus Foundation of America fellowship

Bar Harbor, Maine – Elisabeth Adkins, a graduate student at The Jackson Laboratory studying the genetic basis of lupus, has won a fellowship from the Lupus Foundation of America for summer study.

Adkins is enrolled in a joint Jackson Laboratory-Tufts University Ph.D. program in mammalian genetics, and conducts research in the laboratory of Jackson Professor Derry Roopenian, Ph.D.

The Lupus Foundation of America awarded her a 2013 Gina M. Finzi Memorial Student Summer Fellowship of $4,000 to support her work. 

“My thesis work is focused on lupus, a severe and often debilitating autoimmune condition that affects millions of people worldwide,” Adkins says. Nine out of 10 patients are female; the disease most often appears during childbearing years and affects African-American and Hispanic women in disproportionately large numbers.

“Current research has illustrated the importance of the cytokine Interleukin 21 in the development of lupus,” she explains, “but much remains unknown about the cells and processes that lead to Interleukin 21 production. The money received from the Gina M. Finzi Memorial Student Summer Fellowship will enable me to carry out key experiments this summer that will lay the groundwork for understanding how these processes occur normally and how they are altered in lupus. These questions must be answered before a successful therapy can be developed.”

The Jackson Laboratory education group recently launched the “Mammalian Genetics at JAX” track in cooperation with the genetics program of the Tufts Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences. The joint program offers Ph.D. students in-depth research and training at both JAX and Tufts.

Adkins was the first Tufts predoctoral student to enroll in the program, in 2011. Leah Graham and Sneha Borikar came to JAX in 2012, and a fourth student, Qiming Wang, will arrive this summer.

Roopenian, Adkins’ faculty mentor at JAX, says, “I am thrilled that Elisabeth was awarded this prestigious award from the Lupus Foundation of America. As the pioneering trainee in our cooperative predoctoral training program, she has set the bar for excellence.”  

The Jackson Laboratory is an independent, nonprofit biomedical research institution based in Bar Harbor, Maine, with a facility in Sacramento, Calif., and a new genomic medicine institute in Farmington, Conn. It employs a total staff of more than 1,450. Its mission is to discover precise genomic solutions for disease and empower the global biomedical community in the shared quest to improve human health.