Systemic Lupus Erythematosus

Our commitment to the lupus community and advancing the scientific understanding of lupus

Our vision for systemic lupus erythematosus

Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a chronic immune-driven disease in which the body’s immune system attacks healthy tissue in any part of the body.1 It’s experienced differently by each person and can cause a wide range of debilitating symptoms, including skin rash, joint pain, swelling and fevers.2 There hasn’t been a new medicine approved for SLE in over a decade, and the significant physical, emotional and socio-economic burden remains high for people living with the disease.3

Our researchers are working to unlock the science of the immune system to address the significant unmet needs in lupus. By highlighting the experiences from people with SLE and investigating the underlying drivers of this complex disease, we aim to bring scientific advancements to the lupus community and challenge the boundaries they’ve had to accept for too long.

Patient portraits

Lupus affects each person differently and can be unpredictable. Hear from people with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) on how the disease has impacted their lives since diagnosis, and their hope for scientific advancements in the field.

Addressing unmet needs in the lupus community

Systemic lupus erythematosus is more common among those of African, Asian or Hispanic ethnicities.4 It is also estimated that 90 percent of people diagnosed with SLE are women.1

New treatments are needed to address the significant unmet medical needs faced by those living with lupus and their healthcare professionals. Patients still often have inadequate disease control, poor health-related quality of life outcomes and related health conditions. Many people with SLE rely on prolonged use of oral corticosteroids, which can be helpful in addressing increases in disease activity but can also increase the risk of organ damage and other significant side effects.5,6,7,8

Organ damage and more severe disease characteristics often require more costly care to manage.9 Across multiple countries, we found that earlier diagnosis and treatment are crucial to lowering the financial burden of SLE by reducing the risk of disease progression and flare frequency, protecting from organ damage and improving quality of life.10,11,12,13,14

We are following the science, through decades of research and an evolved understanding of the underlying drivers of this disease to address key areas of unmet needs in SLE.

Richard Marshall Senior Vice President and Global Head of Respiratory & Immunology Late Stage Development, BioPharmaceuticals R&D

Unlocking the science of SLE

For people living with systemic lupus erythematosus, the immune system inappropriately attacks healthy tissue in the body.1 SLE disease activity involves B, T and dendritic cells, as well as inflammatory cytokines such as type 1 interferons (IFN-1), IL-6 and B-cell activating factor. Cytokines are molecules that act as immune signallers, regulating processes along immune pathways that coordinate the overall immune response. This results in an over-activated immune response, which along with the creation of autoantibodies (antibodies formed in response to the body’s own tissues), can lead to injury, inflammation and long-term organ damage. Up to 60-80% of adults with SLE may have an elevated IFN-1 gene signature, which can be associated with increased disease severity.15,16,17,18,19,20

By understanding the role key inflammatory cytokines play in that cascade, we can begin to further unlock the complex nature of this challenging disease.

Our stories


1. The Lupus Foundation of America. What is Lupus? Available at: Accessed April 2021.

2. American College of Rheumatology. Guidelines for referral and management of systemic lupus erythematosus in adults. Arthritis & Rheumatology. 1999;42:1785-1796. Accessed April 2021.

3. Al Sawah S, Daly RP, Foster SA, et al. The caregiver burden in lupus: findings from UNVEIL, a national online lupus survey in the United States. Lupus. 2017 Jan;26(1):54-61. Accessed April 2021.

4. Rees F, Doherty M, Grainge MJ, et al. Worldwide incidence and prevalence of systemic lupus erythematosus: a systematic review of epidemiological studies. Rheumatology. 2017;56(11), pp. 1945-1961. Accessed: April 2021.

5. Harris, J, Morand, E. Editorial: Focus on Systemic Lupus Erythematosus. Front Immunol. 2016;7:400. doi: 10.3389/fimmu.2016.00400. Accessed April 2021.

6. Samnaliev M, Barut V, Weir S, et al. Health Care Utilization and Costs in Adults With Systemic Lupus Erythematosus in the United Kingdom: A Real-World Observational Retrospective Cohort Study [poster]. Presented at: The European League Against Rheumatism, EULAR, European E-Congress of Rheumatology 2020; 3-6 June 2020. Abstract ID: THU0550. Accessed April 2021.

7. Al Sawah S, Zhang X, Zhu B, et al. Effect of corticosteroid use by dose on the risk of developing organ damage over time in systemic lupus erythematosus—the Hopkins Lupus Cohort. Lupus Sci Med. 2015;2(1):e000066.

8. Mahieu, M, Strand V, Simon Lee S, et al. A critical review of clinical trials in systemic lupus erythematosus. Lupus. 2016;25(10):1122–1140. Accessed April 2021.

9. Kan HJ, Song X, Johnson BH, et al. Healthcare utilization and costs of systemic lupus erythematosus in Medicaid. Biomed Res Internat. doi:10.1155/2013/808391. Accessed April 2021.

10. Nusbaum J, Mirza I, Shum J, et al. Sex Differences in Systemic Lupus Erythematosus: Epidemiology, Clinical Considerations, and Disease Pathogenesis. Mayo Clin Proc. 2020;95(2):384–394. Accessed April 2021.

11. Hammond ER, Murimi IB, Lin DH, et al. Health Care Utilization and Costs of Systemic Lupus Erythematosus in the United States: A Systematic Review [poster]. Presented at: The European League Against Rheumatism, EULAR, European Congress of Rheumatology 2017; 14-17 June 2017. Abstract ID: SAT0227. Accessed April 2021.

12. Murimi I, Dora L, Hong K, et al. Health Care Utililization and Costs of Systemic Lupus Erythematosus by Disease Severity in the United States. J Rheumatol. 2020;191187. doi: Accessed April 2021.

13. Hammond E, Freidel H, Garal-Pantaler E, et al. Health care resource use (hru) and medical cost analyses as a function of systemic lupus erythematosus (sle) disease severity: analysis of claims data of a german sickness fund. Lupus Sci Med. 2018;5. doi: 10.1136. Accessed April 2021.

14. Yeo AL, Koelmeyer R, Kandane-Rathnayake R, et al. Lupus Low Disease Activity State is Associated with Reduced Direct Healthcare Costs in Patients with Systemic Lupus Erythematosus [published online ahead of print, 2019 Jul 8]. Arthritis Care Res (Hoboken). 2020 Sep;72(9):1289-1295. Accessed April 2021.

15. Crow MK. Type I interferon in the pathogenesis of lupus. J Immunol. 2014;192(12):5459-5468. Accessed April 2021.

16. Lauwerys BR, Ducreux J, Houssiau FA. Type I interferon blockade in systemic lupus erythematosus: where do we stand? Rheumatol. 2014;53(8):1369-1376. Accessed April 2021.

17. Hoffman RW, Merrill JT, Alarcón-Riquelme MM, et al. Gene expression and pharmacodynamic changes in 1,760 systemic lupus erythematosus patients from two phase III trials of BAFF blockade with tabalumab. Arthritis Rheumatol. 2017;69(3):643-654. Accessed April 2021.

18. Becker AM, Dao KH, Han BK, et al. SLE peripheral blood B cell, T cell and myeloid cell transcriptomes display unique profiles and each subset contributes to the interferon signature. PLoS One. 2013;8(6):e67003. Accessed April 2021.

19. Jefferies CA. Regulating IRFs in IFN driven disease. Front Immunol. 2019;10:325. Accessed April 2021.

20 Mai L, Asaduzzaman A, Noamani B, et al. The baseline interferon signature predicts disease severity over the subsequent 5 years in systemic lupus erythematosus. Arthritis Res Ther. 2021;23:29

Veeva ID: Z4-34625
Date of preparation: June 2021