Happy New Year and thank you for being such an important part of the work we do at the ANRF. I can’t properly send 2021 off without recognizing the foundation it will provide for all that is to come in 2022. Since I began as the CEO, not even a year ago, I have been getting to know the people (the boards, the researchers, our partners, donors, the arthritis and autoimmune communities, etc.) and have discovered how committed everyone is to the research being done. I also see the passion and the need to fund more research as we work to find a cure for arthritis and related autoimmune diseases. I was certainly encouraged when deciding to take the position, more impressed with each person I’ve met and am ready and energized for the transformational times ahead as we look to 2022 and beyond.
The ANRF Board of Directors and staff recently met for a day of strategic planning meetings, which was the culmination of work done before hand. Since then, the staff has continued to fine tune what will be a new strategic plan. We are digging deep and challenging ourselves to invest in an even bigger way in research and making an impact. We have no choice. The numbers have increased to reflect that in the U.S. alone, 58.5 million adults and 300,000 children live with and suffer from arthritis each day. As if that’s not significant enough, projections indicate that by 2040, up to 78 million adults could have a form of doctor-diagnosed arthritis. And this is just arthritis, not even related the autoimmune diseases we are committed to as well.
Rewarding Potential: Funding Grants
As we look toward one of the most important and exciting times of the year for the ANRF — deciding the 2022-23 grant recipients — we know these decisions to fund research are critical. Each project changes the lives of those working on it and has potential to change thousands of lives, offering a new therapy, diagnostic tool, and/or drug and is a part of the journey toward a cure. This past year, we funded 18 research projects and researchers — ten second-year projects and eight first years. This next year, we want to do more, and will, if the potential is in the project and the funding is available. This is how we will change the future — reviewing and rewarding well-researched and well thought out ideas that will translate into limiting numbers of those impacted by arthritis and related autoimmune diseases.
In 2022-23, we are fortunate to have additional funding for PsA to provide at least a one-year grant to an early-career scientist, allowing time and resources to focus on developing their idea into a funded-research project. As the grant application deadline nears (January 17th), we anticipate the Scientific Advisory Board (SAB), who reviews the applications and provides its recommendations for the next funded projects, will be encouraged, challenged and impressed with the applicants and the pending research. I’m already anticipating what was one of my favorite moments last year — letting those receiving the grants know they’ve been selected and will receive funding.
While our role is to fund research, our impact is infinite. The work our researchers do while funded often gets significant recognition during their time as a grant recipient. More often, however, the ANRF grant funding is a bridge to the next grant, a collaboration and/or more research. With more than 250 alumni who continue in the research world as scholars and scientists, we are proud how they continue to make an impact on emerging drugs and developments and the overall journey to a cure.
We will continue to share the journey to a cure in the coming year, with the approval of new therapies, and products designed to aid our community. We are fortunate to have industry partners who recognize our value and invest in us — in supporting grant funding and our educational programming as they did in our first Research Spotlight Series in the Fall (which we will do again) and in the coming Research Symposium.
We know the stats and know the only way to combat them is to fund more research. It’s critical and we need to be strategic, smart and purposeful on how we make an even more significant impact. With our Board of Directors guidance and partnership, our staff whole heartedly takes on this challenge. In the coming months, we will finalize an initial five-year plan and look forward to sharing it with you, and most of all look forward to the research we fund having a long-term purpose in impacting healthier lives.
All the best in 2022,
Emily Boyd Stormoen