The Joint Biology Consortium: A New Resource for Translational Research in Rheumatology

Conducting high-quality translational research in rheumatology is increasingly difficult. Major projects often require a range of methods, from patient recruitment to cutting-edge ‘omics technologies to big-data bioinformatics. Most research groups lack the expertise to cover this range, and so must either limit the scope of their work or expend substantial effort working outside their “comfort zone” to achieve their research goals. Neither of these options efficiently advances the science of rheumatology.

Enter the Joint Biology Consortium (JBC). Funded since the summer of 2016 by the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS) through the P30 grant program, the JBC provides a research infrastructure for rheumatology investigators seeking to access samples, tools, and resources to aid their pursuit of research objectives. JBC services are organized into two research cores:

  • The Human Biosamples Core, directed by Rheumatologist Dr. Elizabeth Karlson, of Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) facilitates access to phenotyped human samples from over 13 individual biobanks, as well as fresh samples from the rheumatology clinic or from other sources, such as >25,000 genotyped volunteer blood donors within the Partners Biobank. Data management and statistical support are also available.
  • The Cellular Systems Core, directed by BWH surgical researcher Dr. Jim Lederer, provides access to technical tools, including CyTOF (Cytometry by Time of Flight), RNA-sequencing, and a flexible platform for the generation and genetic manipulation of experimental murine myeloid cells, termed HoxB8 cells. These services can be accessed from investigators anywhere, to date including those in Boston, Alabama, Ohio, Wisconsin, California and the Netherlands.

The JBC also serves to promote and accelerate early-phase studies, and in particular projects led by more junior researchers, termed JBC Early Career Investigators. JBC Synergy Meetings promote cross-fertilization between clinical and basic investigators. JBC Microgrants of up $5,000, of which 14 have been awarded, can be used to purchase JBC services such as patient recruitment, CyTOF antibodies and instrument time, and RNA-seq. The JBC Aims Review Committee (ARC) convenes every month or two to review specific aims pages, with the goal of helping participants  write successful grants.1 The yield to date has included multiple K08, K23 and foundation grants, as well as one new R01. Finally, established JBC investigators aid more junior colleagues through the JBC Mentoring Program, patterned on the ACR’s AMIGO and upcoming CARMA mentoring initiatives.2,3 Already, 18 mentor-mentee dyads are active within the JBC.

A particular strength of the JBC is its interdisciplinary nature, spanning clinical and basic research; rheumatology and orthopedics; and adult and pediatric medicine. JBC hubs at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (led by Dr. Jeffrey Sparks) and Boston Children’s Hospital (led by Dr. Lauren Henderson) provide samples and matching data across the age spectrum. Informed by the view that similarities and differences across the lifespan are key clues to pathogenesis, JBC investigators pursuing a pathogenic hypothesis are encouraged to explore both adult and childhood-onset arthritis.4

Information about the JBC, its 160+ members, and its services is available via its interactive website, www.jbcwebportal.org, and by contacting the JBC Principal Investigator and Director Dr. Peter Nigrovic pnigrovic@bwh.harvard.edu or JBC Coordinator Ms. Minah Iqbal JBC@bwh.harvard.edu.

 

  1. Nigrovic PA. Building an ARC to Grant Success: The Aims Review Committee. Arthritis Care Res (Hoboken). Apr 2017;69(4):459-461.
  2. Nigrovic PA, Muscal E, Riebschleger M, Moorthy LN, Brunner HI, Eberhard BA, Klein-Gitelman M, Prahalad S, Schneider R. AMIGO: A Novel Approach to the Mentorship Gap in Pediatric Rheumatology. The Journal of Pediatrics. Feb 2014;164(2):226-227 e221-223.
  3. Ogdie A, Sparks JA, Angeles-Han ST, Bush K, Castelino FV, Golding A, Jiang Y, Kahlenberg JM, Kim AHJ, Lee YC, Machireddy K, Ombrello MJ, Shah AA, Wallace ZS, Nigrovic PA, Makris UE, American College of Rheumatology Early Career Investigator Subcommittee of the Committee on R. Barriers and Facilitators of Mentoring for Trainees and Early Career Investigators in Rheumatology Research: Current State, Identification of Needs, and Road Map to an Inter-Institutional Adult Rheumatology Mentoring Program. Arthritis Care Res (Hoboken). Mar 2018;70(3):445-453.
  4. Nigrovic PA, Raychaudhuri S, Thompson SD. Genetics and the classification of arthritis in adults and children. Arthritis Rheumatol. Oct 12 2018;70(1):7-17.

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