Increased Focus on Research in Psoriasis


The National Psoriasis Foundation (NPF) recently awarded 13 psoriasis research fellowships. More than half a million dollars has been given to early-career physicians to study psoriatic disease.

Twelve residents and medical students each received a 1-year, $50,000 NPF fellowship to study psoriasis. The fellowships aim to increase the number of scientists studying and treating psoriatic disease by encouraging promising doctors to dedicate their careers to the study of psoriasis as physician researchers, according to NPF.

 The program pairs an early-career doctor with an established psoriatic disease researcher to oversee their work. 

The fellowships are part of the Foundation’s robust research program, which aims to accelerate efforts to find better treatments and a cure. Under the plan, the Foundation will increase the investment of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) by 50% to more than $19 million. In addition, the non-profit organization will increase the number of NIH scientists by 50% for a total of 42 studying psoriatic disease, while also cutting in half the number of people who say these chronic conditions are a problem in their daily lives. The group will invest at least 30% of its revenue on research grants and fellowships. In addition, the Foundation will initiate annual progress reports in key areas of psoriatic disease research such as causes, diagnosis, prevention and cures and share that with the community. 

Pete Redding, vice chair, NPF Board of Directors and chair of the NPF Strategic Plan Committee, notes that this is the most aggressive, results-driven strategic plan the NPF has undertaken.

The scope of the research fellowships is wide as well. The research ranges from pediatric to adult disease and illustrates the vast effects of the disease.


The Faces of Future Psoriasis Research

Following is a list of the NPF Medical Dermatology Fellows for 2014:

Dena Elkeeb, MD, of University of Utah, will develop a pediatric study group within the Utah Psoriasis Initiative to assess the impact of systemic corticosteroids on physical characteristics of psoriasis, its severity and the patient’s overall health.


Aleksandra Florek, MD, of University of Colorado Denver, will study the epidemiology of psoriatic disease and related comorbidities, and investigate issues related to treating psoriasis, such as cost and effectiveness.

Zelma Chiesa Fuxench, MD, of the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine, will determine risks of major cardiovascular events in people with psoriasis and whether treating with the drug adalimumab (Humira, AbbVie Inc.) improves vascular inflammation. She will also study the effect of certain psoriasis treatments on skin cancer risk.


Jessica Donigan, MD, MPH, of Massachusetts General Hospital/Harvard Medical School, will evaluate why psoriasis plaques appear to be more stigmatizing than the lesions from other dermatologic diseases.

Rivka Friedland, MD, of Northwestern University, will examine the safety and efficacy of systemic medications and phototherapy on psoriasis in children.

Dario Kivelivetch, MD, of Baylor Research Institute, will evaluate cardiovascular risk in people with psoriasis using coronary artery calcium scores, which are special x-ray tests that check for early-stage heart disease to determine its severity.

Davida Kornreich, MD, of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mt. Sinai, will analyze whether applying topical medications in different orders changes their effectiveness. Dr. Kornreich will also study the safety and effectiveness of a holistic treatment in moderate-to-severe plaque psoriasis.

Marina Li, BS, a third-year medical student at Case Western Reserve University, will examine whether reducing skin inflammation also reduces blood clots and other signs of cardiovascular disease.

Forum Patel, MD, of the University of California, Davis, will identify if complex sugars called glycans are biomarkers, or biological signs, of psoriasis.

Scott Santilli, MD, of University Hospital Case Medical Center, will examine the effect of systemic, or whole-body, psoriasis therapy and its potential to regulate cardiovascular risk in people with psoriasis.

Aimee Two, MD, of University of California, San Diego, will investigate the role of dendritic cells, or pro-inflammatory cells in the immune system, in psoriasis and whether hyaluronidase, an enzyme that may cause dendritic cells to move away from the skin, may be effective at stopping inflammation.

Shaowei Wu, MD, PhD, of Brown University, will use data from 2 ongoing national Nurses’ Health Studies to investigate the relationship between pregnancy, menstruation, menopause and postmenopausal hormone use in the risk of psoriatic disease.

In addition, the Dr. Mark G. Lebwohl Medical Dermatology Fellowship recipient, named to recognize Dr. Mark Lebwohl, chairman emeritus of the NPF Medical Board and an international leading psoriasis expert, was awarded to: 

Emily Osier, MD, of Rady Children’s Hospital, University of California, San Diego. Dr. Osier will develop screening guidelines for comorbidities, or associated health risks, in children with psoriasis.