Aurinia awards grants to amp local lupus awareness among underserved groups

Brooklyn Bridge
Brooklyn in New York City is one of five sites for Aurinia's newly awarded lupus grants to organizations working with underserved populations. (Pixabay)

Aurinia Pharmaceuticals' recent launch in lupus nephritis hit the ground running and now is expanding with local efforts. The pharma today awarded $50,000 in grants to five lupus-focused organizations across the U.S. to work with underserved populations.

Research shows that Black and Hispanic systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) patients have more severe disease than white patients, higher mortality and faster accrual of permanent damage, Ellen Ginzler, M.D., of SUNY Downstate Health Science University and one of the award winners, said in a news release.

Her group in Brooklyn in New York City plans to use its grant to create a student-led navigator program focused on early diagnosis and “compassionate high-quality care to immigrant, at-risk and underserved individuals.”

RELATED: As GSK, Aurinia heat up the lupus nephritis category, analyst gauges doctors' first impressions

Along with the Brooklyn group, nonprofit organizations in Atlanta, Cleveland, Philadelphia and Indianapolis will launch the Aurinia-funded one-year patient programs in July. Targeting at-risk populations in both SLE and lupus nephritis, the program goals include helping people navigate diagnosis and disease management, supporting appointment and treatment adherence as well as offering resources and education.

For Aurinia, earlier and better diagnosis means potentially more patients under treatment. Its drug, Lupkynis, was approved in January specifically for lupus nephritis, which is a serous kidney disease that about one-third of lupus patients will develop.

In the competitive market—GlaxoSmithKline got a nod in December for Benlysta to treat lupus nephritis—Lupkynis is making headway with physicians, particularly with nephrologists who tend to see more advanced patients, according to Spherix Global Insights’ recent research with healthcare professionals.

“Physicians perceive Lupkynis as a new generation calcineurin inhibitor to be used in more severe lupus nephritis patients as add-on therapy and/or for its steroid-sparing effect,” it reported.

RELATED: Aurinia snags FDA approval for lupus nephritis med Lupkynis, its first drug launch

More than half of the doctors interviewed said they had seen a Lupkynis rep. When asked specifically about Lupkynis’ launch, one-fourth of the physicians said Aurinia has done a good job, Spherix analyst Tucker Hurtado said.

Aurinia's and GSK’s early market entry may help both companies, as the lupus nephritis market is set to heat up. On the horizon are drugs approved for other indications such as Roche Genentech’s Gazyva in cancer and Janssen's Tremfya and Novartis' Cosentyx for psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis. Meanwhile, other new lupus meds in testing include Bristol Myers Squibb's TYK2 inhibitor deucravacitinib and AstraZeneca's monoclonal antibody anifrolumab.