On the Importance of Scientific Research for NEA’s Community

Eric L. Simpson, MD, MCR, dermatologist and professor of dermatology at the Oregon Health & Science University School of Dermatology, has been involved with the National Eczema Association (NEA) for more than 20 years. He was introduced to the organization early in his career by two of its founders, Susan Tofte, RN, MS, FNP and Jon Hanifin, MD. NEA supported his early eczema research efforts with grant funding at a time in his career when larger research funding institutions wouldn’t take a chance on the research topics he proposed.

He stays involved in the organization year-round by donating, serving as co-chair of the NEA Scientific & Medical Advisory Council and presenting at NEA’s Virtual Expo, including this popular webinar “Eczema and Aging.” Dr. Simpson sums up his connection to the organization this way: “NEA is part of my professional DNA.”

We interviewed him about what he thinks needs to happen in the field of eczema research and the critical role NEA continues to play.

Why is eczema research so critical today?

In the minds of funders and the public, eczema is a hidden disease. There’s a lack of visibility and public understanding of eczema, even though the disease has a huge impact on the lives of people with eczema. Research helps shine a light on the reality of living with eczema.

The new therapies we have now are a huge step above what we had in the past. But they still don’t help everybody. New approaches and new medications are still needed.

How can research make the lives of people with eczema better?

Eczema is a diverse disease. It presents itself differently in different people. We need research to help us better identify the right drug for the right patient. Research can help us find out whether someone’s eczema is genetically motivated, driven by the immune system or set off by their environment. This can help us tailor medications to specific types and causes of atopic dermatitis (AD). We will have better impact and fewer side effects.

I’ve talked to people with eczema who have drawers at home full of ten different steroids and therapies. It’s confusing for them to construct a manageable long-term approach to taking care of their child’s eczema. It’s a gap in treatment plans that I run into all the time: I wish there was better research to help us improve.

We need research documenting the safest, most cost-effective way to use the treatments we currently have available. Research is needed to help us identify treatment protocols that are manageable for people with eczema and parents of children with eczema.

What has NEA contributed to the field of eczema research?

NEA research funding takes a chance on the smaller, more innovative projects that could open into larger fields of research that will really help people living with eczema.

Understanding the link between eczema and mental health:

NEA funded one of the first studies that demonstrated how eczema has such a big impact on the mental health of those afflicted by the condition. Before that study, we didn’t know much about the mental health impact of the disease. Now we understand the link between eczema and mental health issues like ADHD, depression and anxiety, especially in children.

Measuring the real impact of living with eczema:

Some of the research NEA funds has helped show the public what eczema is, how it impacts the patient’s whole life and what it’s really like to live with this disease.

NEA recently funded a research project to study the burden of eczema, and we took a systematic approach to identify the gaps in the research and fill them. That was helpful for me and others in the field to understand the multidimensional impact the disease can have on people’s lives.

Research showed us eczema affects every aspect of a person’s life: their family and loved ones, work, school, confidence, sleep, personal life and more. Thanks to NEA’s research funding, we took steps forward to measure the full burden of living with the disease and open people’s eyes.

On the Importance of Scientific Research for NEA’s Community

Grant funding:

Eczema is a complicated disease. It’s hard to find funding for eczema research. NEA is the largest private grant funder for eczema research in the U.S.

NEA has been the only funder investing in research on the possible prevention of eczema. They go out of their way to work with the best minds and to find and financially support research projects that will ensure we can better treat people living with this disease.

Patient voice:

NEA is a leader in patient advocacy. The organization is respected by key decision-makers in the field like the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This respect makes NEA a powerful force and a powerful voice to be able to say: “We need new drugs. We need them developed faster.” As new drugs are developed, NEA makes sure the community’s voice is included in the design of future research and drug development. Eczema drug development has been accelerated thanks to this advocacy.

NEA is the most powerful voice we have for people with eczema. NEA supports the interests of patients with scientific rigor. NEA is a nonprofit organization whose whole purpose is to make your and your family’s life better.

If you’d like to help shape the field of eczema research and build a brighter future for people living with eczema, consider a donation to the NEA Research Fund.

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