School of medicine

School Notes: School of Medicine
September/October 2022

Nancy J. Brown |

NIH award funds study of vaccine responses in vulnerable groups

A significant proportion of the population has weakened immune systems, including cancer patients, those with autoimmune disease, and organ transplant recipients. The immune systems of these individuals are unable to ward off disease as effectively, and their responses to vaccines are not as robust. Now, Yale researchers have received a $12 million award from the National Institutes of Health as part of the Human Immune Project Consortium to study vaccine responses in vulnerable groups—including patients with multiple sclerosis undergoing B cell depletion therapy, older adults including particularly vulnerable residents of long-term care facilities, and individuals with sickle cell disease. Those being studied have substantial and potentially disabling morbidity and early mortality, and face fundamental challenges to improving clinical outcomes.

“We would love to have the ability to improve vaccine responsiveness in vulnerable populations,” says Ruth Montgomery, professor of medicine and of epidemiology (microbial diseases), associate dean for scientific affairs, and co–principal investigator.

FDA approves alopecia areata treatment with roots at Yale

In a June 13 announcement, the US Food and Drug Administration approved the use of the Janus kinase (JAK) inhibitor baricitinib as a treatment for severe alopecia areata, a disfiguring skin disease. It is the first approved treatment for alopecia areata, an autoimmune disorder that affects about 7 million people in the United States. The often-disfiguring disease, in which the body’s immune system attacks hair follicles, is marked by patchy or complete loss of scalp hair and sometimes eyebrows, eyelashes, facial hair, and body hair. Brett King, associate professor of dermatology, worked with the pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly and Company to conduct a series of clinical trials with the new medicine, a once-daily pill which goes by the product name Olumiant.

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