• Felix Poppelaars, MD, PhD

    2021 Ben J. Lipps Research Fellowship Award
    Felix Poppelaars, MD, PhD

    Felix Poppelaars, MD, PhD

    2021 Ben J. Lipps Research Fellowship Award

    Institution: The University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus

    Project Title: Molecular Imaging: A Novel Tool for Non-Invasive Tracking of Disease Activity in Lupus Nephritis

    How would you sum up your research in one sentence?

    My primary research interest is to understand the role of the complement system, a part of the immune system, in kidney disease and renal replacement therapy. 

    Provide a brief overview of the research you will conduct with help from the grant.

    My research project aims to develop a novel tool for the management of lupus nephritis, a form of kidney disease caused by systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). In current practice, the renal biopsy remains indispensable for the diagnosis and treatment of lupus nephritis. However, as patients are not biopsied routinely due to risks, histological examination offers a single "snapshot" of an evolving pathology. Molecular imaging is a type of medical imaging that offers a detailed picture of what is happening inside the body at the cellular level. For lupus nephritis, molecular imaging of inflammation could provide a unique opportunity to visualize its pathological features and thereby identify disease onset and monitor disease activity over time. To test this, we will use an experimental model of lupus nephritis to detect renal inflammation using SPECT/CT imaging. Furthermore, we will evaluate whether the results of these experiments are valid and could be applied to patients by analyzing the same immune markers in renal biopsies of lupus nephritis patients. We envision that molecular imaging of renal inflammation will transform the ability to monitor disease activity and treatment response in patients with lupus nephritis.

    What impact do you hope your research will have on patients?

    Non-invasive detection of inflammation of the kidney could reduce the need for repeated renal biopsies in patients with autoimmune diseases of the kidneys. Moreover, imaging will allow clinicians to evaluate inflammation throughout the kidneys and to assess a patient's response to treatment. These imaging tools will also improve our ability to validate new therapies and to optimize the treatment of individual patients with existing therapies. Altogether, this would greatly benefit patients with lupus nephritis, but potentially also patients with other inflammation-related kidney diseases. 

    What are your career goals at the end of the grant period? Five years out? Ten years out?

    The experiences from this fellowship will solidify my scientific training and enable me to apply for a tenure-track or equivalent faculty positions to develop my independent research career, while continuing my training to become a nephrologist. My long-term career goal is to lead a research group studying the role of the complement system in kidney diseases. Having acquired both an MD and PhD degree, my goal is to apply this knowledge to create new tools and treatments that address unmet needs in the management of kidney diseases. 

    In one sentence, please describe the importance of having grant funding available through KidneyCure.

    This funding opportunity allows me to be at the forefront of nephrology research, while being in a unique environment focused on talent development alongside world renowned physician-scientists.

    Something you may not know about me is…

    I am from The Netherlands, but I fell in love with Colorado after being here for a research conference.

    In my free time I like to…

    go hiking in the Rocky Mountains with my dog and travel across the United States to see different parts of the country.

    Follow on Twitter: @FPoppelaars