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"Speaking of Vitiligo..."

Thanksgiving 2019 – a time to be vitiligo thankful all around!

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

As I sit in my living room preparing for a busy Thanksgiving Day tomorrow, I am thinking about all that I have to be thankful for. Of course, my family and friends top my list, but after them my vitiligo community certainly rises to the top. It has been a wonderful year for those who have vitiligo as well as those of us who care about them, including their family and friends, but also vitiligo physicians and researchers like me who are trying to make their lives better.

First, we announced the results of the Incyte clinical trial to test topical ruxolitinib as a treatment for vitiligo. This is the first large randomized clinical trial conducted in vitiligo patients, and it did not disappoint. I wrote extensively about the 26-week results here, and the 52-week results reported last month were even better. The study was planned for a total of 2 years, and in the last year enrolled subjects all received the highest dose of the drug for free and were allowed to also use nbUVB if they wanted. The study has now been extended for an additional year, which is great news for those in the trial that wanted to continue the treatment (pretty much all of them). In fact, the results were so good that Incyte announced a Phase III trial, which will enroll even more subjects with vitiligo in order to gain FDA-approval for the drug in the US. And this trial will allow children aged 12 and over to enroll, which will make many of my pediatric patients and their parents happy. Keep an eye out for announcements to participate in the Phase III soon.

Second, more clinical trials got going! Pfizer started enrolling for their clinical trial exactly 1 year ago to test two oral JAK inhibitors as treatments for vitiligo. They are still enrolling but expect to close enrollment next month. Treatment of enrolled subjects is still ongoing, and I hope to give good news about the results in the future. We have also participated in two other clinical trials, one of which is still enrolling to test another topical therapy for vitiligo. To get the word out and help enrollment for these studies, I sent a newsletter to our subscribers over the past few months, and we got a great response! Not everyone qualified for the trials (there are specific requirements for subjects in each trial), and if you didn’t qualify for the last one, keep an eye out for the next one. If you are interested in hearing about future trials and how to enroll in them, please sign up for our newsletter here.

Third, Dr. Mehdi Rashighi joined the Vitiligo Clinic after finishing years of training in both clinical dermatology as well as vitiligo research in my lab. You can read more in my blog about this important new addition to our team here. He is already busy seeing vitiligo patients from all over the world, and they are singing his praises! As a result, we have almost doubled the number of vitiligo patients we are seeing every week in our clinic, and we are having a lot of fun doing it. I have included a picture below of just some of the locations from where patients have traveled to see us. If you’re interested in coming to our clinic, you can find all the information you need here.

Vitiligo Clinic visitors - Tday blog post 2019.jpg

Personally, I had a great year as well. I received the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE) from the President of the United States, visiting Constitution Hall in Washington DC with all of the other awardees to receive the prize. It was an incredible honor, and also came with more funding from the NIH to continue our research in vitiligo. In addition to this, I was able to obtain support to found a new company completely dedicated to developing a new treatment for vitiligo, the company is called Villaris Therapeutics. We have assembled an outstanding team of leadership and consultants, and things are moving quickly toward a new treatment. Keep an eye out for updates about our work and new developments, I am incredibly optimistic about our specific approach to treat vitiligo.


Our research team is growing, allowing us to make new discoveries at an even more rapid pace than before. Some of the support we’ve received to do this has come from you! Many have donated to our research efforts through this website, and if you’re interested in joining with others to help us you can do that here. Needless to say, I am thankful to all of you that have taken the time to join the effort by donating money for our research. We have used some of these donations to purchase much needed equipment for the lab, either to replace failing equipment or to add new units that will make us more efficient in our work. I will write a separate blog to outline some of these and even show some pictures of what they look like. A number of donors have given very generously, including those who have contributed thousands and even tens of thousands of dollars. These gifts have allowed us to try new things that we didn't have funding for, which have really paid off! We have made some early discoveries that we expect to result in significant advances in the future, although to do this we need to find additional funding since the “next steps” beyond early discoveries require even more funds.

Thank-you---Tday-blog-2019.jpgThat brings me to a highlight of my thanks – an incredibly generous donor to the Vitiligo Clinic and Research Center who wishes to remain anonymous, so I don’t even know whom to thank! This donor has really transformed our approach to research and discovery so that we can take those next steps I referred to in the previous paragraph. That donation is supporting an incredible new postdoc in the lab, his project, and our efforts to tie some incredible new data together to start important new projects to discover novel treatments for vitiligo. Please join me in thanking this important donor by sharing this blog post on your favorite social media platform with your own note of thanks if you feel so moved!

And of course, Happy Thanksgiving to those who observe the holiday, and a big THANK YOU from me for everyone who has supported us, financially and otherwise. It is a real honor to do what we do and be part of the wonderful vitiligo community.


John E. Harris