PhRMA Recognizes 2016 Research & Hope Award Recipients

Washington, DC (September 14, 2016) – The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) announced the recipients of the 2016 Research & Hope Awards. This year, PhRMA recognized patient advocates and researchers for their tireless efforts to advance the treatment and care of patients with autoimmune diseases, a group of more than 80 diseases in which a person’s own immune system attacks the body’s healthy cells. 

PhRMA was joined by 22 patient and community health organizations in honoring the 2016 award winners at an annual dinner in Washington, D.C., last night, featuring a keynote address by actress Jamie-Lynn Sigler, best known for her role in the HBO television series “The Sopranos.” In 2002, Sigler was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, a chronic autoimmune disorder that affects more than 400,000 Americans and 2.3 million people worldwide.

Recipients of the PhRMA 2016 Research & Hopes Awards are:

  • The PhRMA Research & Hope Award for Biopharmaceutical Industry Research

John Medich, Ph.D., vice president, immunology clinical development, AbbVie

Dr. John Medich is vice president, immunology clinical development at AbbVie, responsible for Humira and other treatments in development for autoimmune diseases. For six years, he served as global project head for Humira, leading the clinical and project development programs that resulted in the approval of indications for the use of Humira for inhibition of radiographic progression and improvement in physical function in patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), for treatment of patients with early RA, psoriatic arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis and juvenile idiopathic arthritis.

  • The PhRMA Research & Hope Award for Community Champion

Mila Ferrer, community and social media manager, Hispanic market, Diabetes Hands Foundation

Mila Ferrer is the community and social media manager, Hispanic market, for the Diabetes Hands Foundation and a member of the Board of Directors of Children with Diabetes. Through her blog, social networks and participation in speaking engagements, Ferrer is a tireless advocate for more and better diabetes education for the Hispanic community. She began writing her blog, “Jaime, mi dulce guerrero,” five years after her son, Jaime, was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of three.

  • The PhRMA Research & Hope Award for Excellence in Advocacy & Activism

Virginia T. Ladd, president and executive director, American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association, Inc.

Virginia Ladd is the president and executive director of the American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association, Inc., an organization she founded to bring a national focus to autoimmunity and increase collaboration in autoimmune research, education, awareness and advocacy. She is also the founder and facilitator for the National Coalition of Autoimmune Patient Groups, an organization of 33 national autoimmune disease-specific groups. Ladd has been involved in the nonprofit community for over 30 years as a patient advocate and educator.

  • The PhRMA Research & Hope Award for Government Research

Lisa G. Rider, M.D., deputy chief, environmental autoimmunity group, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, National Institutes of Health

Lisa Rider, M.D., a pediatric rheumatologist, is deputy chief of the environmental autoimmunity group at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, National Institutes of Health. She is also clinical professor of medicine at The George Washington University. Dr. Rider’s research focus has been on juvenile myositis, a rare autoimmune disease characterized by muscle inflammation. She has led the international development of validated assessments and trial response criteria and defined the major autoantibody phenotypes and associated outcomes. Dr. Rider has co-organized 20 national or international conferences, including a number for the International Myositis Assessment and Clinical Studies Group (IMACS), which she has co-led for the past 20 years.

  • The PhRMA Research & Hope Award for Nonprofit Research

Joan T. Merrill, M.D., chief advisor, clinical development, Lupus Foundation of America

Joan T. Merrill, M.D., is the chief advisor of clinical development at the Lupus Foundation of America and serves as the director of the Oklahoma Lupus Cohort at the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation. She has been involved in design, implementation and execution of clinical trials of immune modulating treatments for systemic lupus erythematosus for over 20 years. As the medical director of the Lupus Foundation of America, Dr. Merrill led the development of an online lupus assessment training website (www.lfa-point) which is now the gold standard in scoring complex outcome measures for trials, and she is currently working in a collaborative group of stakeholders to test and validate a new, simplified outcome measure for lupus, LFA-REAL (Rapid Evaluation of Activity in Lupus).

  • The PhRMA Research & Hope Award for Visibility & Progress

Parker Lentini, patient and advocate

Parker Lentini is a 16-year-old who has systemic-onset juvenile arthritis with overlap syndromes including: myositis, psoriatic features, vasculitis, raynauds, anklyosis spondylitis, and hypogammaglobulinemia. Since his juvenile arthritis diagnosis six years ago, he has fought hard while also raising over $105,000 toward a cure and to support families impacted by the disease. Lentini is an Arthritis Foundation’s Ambassador and the 2016 National Walk to Cure Arthritis Youth Honoree and recently received the International Foundation for Autoimmune Arthritis’ World Autoimmune Arthritis Day “Inspirational Patient Award.” He and his family raise awareness through their family blog: “Parker's Purple Playa Power ... Pounding at Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis.”

“These awards celebrate the progress and promise of biopharmaceutical research and illustrate how our industry, and others in the health care ecosystem, work together to bring medical advances to patients,” said Dr. George A. Scangos, PhRMA chairman and Biogen chief executive officer. “The 2016 award recipients all play a critical role in working to ensure that the lives of patients and their caregivers may be improved as a result of breakthrough science and innovation.”

According to a new PhRMA report released Monday, “Medicines in Development for Autoimmune Diseases,” there are more than 300 medicines and vaccines for autoimmune diseases currently in clinical trials or awaiting review by the Food and Drug Administration. Spearheaded by the biopharmaceutical industry, this progress toward new treatments and cures includes 76 for autoimmune types of arthritis, 58 for inflammatory bowel disease, 39 for lupus, 34 for type 1 diabetes and 32 for multiple sclerosis.

“These award recipients and the biopharmaceutical industry as a whole are leading the charge in search of new treatments and improved care for autoimmune patients,” said Stephen J. Ubl, president and chief executive officer of PhRMA. “Through their determination and commitment to this effort, there is more hope than ever before for the more than 23.5 million Americans affected by an autoimmune disease.”

The 2016 Research & Hope Awards honorees were selected by the Scientific Advisory Board of the PhRMA Foundation following an open nominations process. Twenty-two health advocacy partners joined PhRMA in recognizing the honorees, including: AARDA, American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, American Behcet’s Disease Association, American College of Rheumatology, American Lung Association, Arthritis Foundation, Coalition of State Rheumatology Organizations, EveryLife Foundation for Rare Diseases, GBS CIDP Foundation International, International Foundation for Autoimmune Arthritis, International Pemphigus Pemphigoid Foundation, Lupus and Allied Diseases Association, Lupus Foundation of America, Myasthenia Gravis Foundation of America, National Alopecia Areata Foundation, National Psoriasis Foundation, Relapsing Polychondritis Awareness and Support Foundation, Sjogren’s Syndrom Foundation, the Mastocytosis Society, the Myositis Association, U.S. Pain Foundation and Vasculitis Foundation.

“Medical research is the key to ending the devastating impact of lupus and all autoimmune diseases,” said Sandra C. Raymond, president and chief executive officer of the Lupus Foundation of America. “The Lupus Foundation of America has established a national medical research program that is based on establishing smarter research to achieve faster progress. We are proud to be a partner with pioneering biotech and pharmaceutical companies who have recognized lupus as a medically underserved disease and are working hard to produce new medications for lupus.”

For more information on the 2016 Research & Hope Awards, visit

About PhRMA
The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) represents the country’s leading innovative biopharmaceutical research companies, which are devoted to discovering and developing medicines that enable patients to live longer, healthier and more productive lives. Since 2000, PhRMA member companies have invested more than half a trillion dollars in the search for new treatments and cures, including an estimated $58.8 billion in 2015 alone.

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