Date Posted: April 28, 2023

On April 12, 2023, ORWH Director Janine A. Clayton, M.D., FARVO, announced the establishment of the NIH Office of Autoimmune Disease Research (OADR-ORWH) during the 58th meeting of the Advisory Committee on Research on Women’s Health

The creation of this office was directed by Congress in the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2023 (Public Law 117–328), and it reflects the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine’s 2022 report titled Enhancing NIH Research on Autoimmune Disease, which highlighted the need for greater coordination across NIH regarding autoimmune disease efforts.

“The congressional charge for ORWH to establish the Office of Autoimmune Disease Research is a cross-cutting effort,” Dr. Clayton notes. “ORWH is enthusiastic about the opportunity to lead the next chapter of autoimmune disease research at NIH, leveraging our ORWH perspective to complement, synergize with, and catalyze NIH Institute, Center, and Office (ICO) investments through integrative research approaches to accelerate progress in support of patients.”

Autoimmune diseases occur when the body’s immune system malfunctions and mistakenly attacks healthy cells, tissues, and organs. These diseases can be acute or chronic and are often disabling, and they can affect specific organs or multiple organ systems. Many autoimmune diseases are understudied and have limited treatment options, and some have unknown causes or origins. Approximately 8% of the U.S. population is living with an autoimmune disease, and women constitute nearly 80% of this group. The disproportionate burden of autoimmune disease borne by women underscores the importance of understanding the influences of sex and gender in health and disease, a critical part of ORWH’s mission. 

ORWH is working with NIH leadership, other ICOs, researchers, clinicians, patient advocacy groups, and the public to ensure that plans for the new office synergize with other NIH efforts, observe congressional directives, address research gaps, and serve patients with autoimmune disorders. OADR-ORWH is also establishing the Coordinating Committee for Autoimmune Disease Research, which will provide a structured forum to collaborate and leverage autoimmune expertise across ICOs. This committee will support strategic decisions and engagement with community stakeholders. 

Additionally, OADR-ORWH has developed principles to guide decisions about funding for research on autoimmune diseases. These principles are broadly reflective of the 2019–2023 Trans-NIH Strategic Plan for Women’s Health Research, which was developed by a collaborative group of leaders from the ICOs, external stakeholders, and the public. 

OADR-ORWH is excited to share current open funding opportunities for research on autoimmune diseases:

To stay updated on the latest OADR-ORWH efforts, other ORWH efforts, and funding opportunities for research on autoimmune diseases, subscribe to receive ORWH email updates and follow ORWH on Twitter and Facebook