Awards and Grants Scholars

The American Lung Association Scholar Program highlights the best and the brightest young to mid-career investigators our organization is funding by disease topic. These scientists are considered to be among those with great potential to impact the study of lung disease.

A list of previous awardees is also available.

Acute Lung Injury and Other Disorders of the Lung Blood Vessels

Narsa Machireddy, PhDNarsa Machireddy, PhD
* ACUTE LUNG INJURY Scholar

University of Illinois, Chicago, IL
BIOMEDICAL RESEARCH GRANT

Funded in Partnership with the American Lung Association of the Upper Midwest

Oxygen Therapy in Treating Acute Lung Injury
Acute lung injury (ALI) and its most severe form, acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), are common pulmonary syndromes affecting approximately 190,000 patients per year in the United States. Oxygen supplementation is widely used to support critically ill patients with ALI/ARDS, however, it can cause cell death and exacerbate preexisting lung injury and inflammation. Dr. Machireddy and team will attempt to target the pathway r(bZIP) transcription factor, which is critical for the stimulation of genes involved in the protection against toxic and oxidant insults and limits oxygen-induced lung injury and inflammation in critically ill patients.

Interstitial Lung Disease and Lung Scarring

Lobelia Samavati, MDLobelia Samavati, MD
* INTERSTITIAL LUNG DISEASE Scholar

Wayne State University, Detroit, MI
BIOMEDICAL RESEARCH GRANT

How Immune System Works Differently in Sarcoidosis
Sarcoidosis is an inflammatory disorder that can affect multiple organs throughout the body. Its course and outcome are difficult to predict in each individual patient.  Normally, immune protein cells in the body are equipped to recognize invaders, triggering an inflammatory response in an attempt to kill the invading foreign pathogens. In healthy individuals, inflammation shuts down once an infection is fought off; however, this process remains sustained in sarcoidosis patients. Dr. Samavati and team will investigate why these immune proteins work differently and how the inflammatory process continues to be activated in sarcoidosis patients compared to healthy individuals. The findings may lead to more effective drug therapies.

Lung Cancer

Gutian Xiao, PhDGutian Xiao, PhD
* LUNG CANCER Scholar

University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA
LUNG CANCER DISCOVERY AWARD

Funded by the American Lung Association of the Upper Midwest

Using Protein to Help Diagnose and Treat Lung Cancer
Lung cancer’s high death rate is largely due to late diagnosis and the fact that lung cancer easily becomes resistant to chemotherapy. Research has shown that PDLIM2, a widely found protein molecule in the lungs, functions as a tumor suppressor and may also play a critical role in the response of lung cancer to chemotherapy. Dr. Xiao and team will seek to establish PDLIM2 as a diagnostic, and predictive biomarker of human lung cancer as well as a therapy for lung cancer.

Lung Diseases of Infants and Children

Hideki Shishido, PhD
* PEDIATRIC LUNG DISEASE Scholar

Oregon Health and Science University, Portland, OR
SENIOR RESEARCH TRAINING FELLOWSHIP

Developing New Method to Study Cystic Fibrosis Protein
Cystic fibrosis (CF) is a life-threatening inherited disease that primarily affects the lungs and digestive system of affected patients. In patients with CF, a protein called the cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR) is malformed, causing the lungs to be susceptible to bacterial infections. An important goal of CF therapy is to understand how CFTR acquires its structure and to identify new therapies that assist in preventing this malformation. Dr. Shishido and team are determined to develop an entirely new method to study how different regions of CFTR fold as they are synthesized in the cell. Results will hopefully provide a promising new approach for CF drug discovery that corrects the underlying molecular defect in CF patients.

Lung Infections

DEBORAH WEIDE HENDRICKS, PhDDEBORAH WEIDE HENDRICKS, PhD
* Lung INFECTIONS Scholar

University of California, San Francisco, San Francisco, CA
RESEARCH TRAINING FELLOWSHIP

Learning How Immune Cells Fight Respiratory Infections
When a cell is infected with a virus, natural killer cells (NK) respond rapidly, producing proteins that kill the cell directly or that helps other immune cells fight the virus. NK cells recognize certain viruses, and that they may “remember” their first encounter with a virus and provide better protection during the next infection. These qualities make vaccinations possible. Dr. Hendricks and team will study the function and characteristics of these NK cells during parainfluenza virus infection, a highly transmissible respiratory infection that is responsible for widespread illness especially among children, older adults and those with suppressed immune systems. The knowledge gained from this research could translate into better treatments for respiratory infections.

Obstructive Lung Diseases

Delesha Carpenter, PhDDelesha Carpenter, PhD
* OBSTRUCTIVE LUNG DISEASE Scholar

University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC
SOCIAL BEHAVIORAL RESEARCH GRANT

Using Mobile App to Help Teens Manage Their Asthma
Asthma attacks are highly preventable if individuals engage in asthma self-management behaviors, which include: 1) symptom prevention; 2) symptom monitoring; 3) acute symptom management, and 4) communication with family, friends, and health professionals. Unfortunately, adolescents often do not optimally self-manage their asthma, with medication adherence rates as low as 50%. Dr. Carpenter and team will develop a free, user-friendly, adolescent asthma self-management application (app) for mobile communication devices like cell phones and tablets with the goal of improving asthma self-management.

Xuexian Yang, PhDXuexian Yang, PhD
* OBSTRUCTIVE LUNG DISEASE Scholar

University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM
BIOMEDICAL RESEARCH GRANT

How Lack of CIS Molecule Leads to Allergic Lung Disease
Allergic asthma is a major health problem, but the causes are not well understood. Research has newly identified a molecule called CIS that may be deficient in people with allergic lung disease. This research will explore the ways in which levels of this molecule are regulated in the body. Dr. Yang will study how CIS is regulated, what cellular signals are disrupted by CIS, how CIS controls the development of pro-allergic immune cells called T helper cells, and how CIS deficiency leads to allergic lung disease. The results will potentially provide novel insights into the development of allergic lung disease, and may suggest new therapeutic and preventive methods.

Risk Factors

Hongwei Yao, PhD, MDHongwei Yao, PhD, MD
University of Rochester, Rochester, NY
BIOMEDICAL RESEARCH GRANT

Link Between Cigarette Smoke and Lung Premature Aging
Cigarette smoking is the main risk factor for developing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), accounting for at least 75% of COPD deaths. Recent research suggests COPD develops as a result of accelerated premature aging of the lungs. Despite knowledge linking cigarette smoke and premature lung aging, little is known about the mechanisms that cause this process. Dr. Yao hopes to identify the factors responsible for regulating cigarette smoke-induced premature aging in lung cells. He will focus on Sirtulin 1 (SIRT1), a gene with anti-aging activity. Outcomes of this research could contribute to development of novel and more selective approaches and treatments to prevent or limit premature lung aging caused by tobacco smoke.

Tuberculosis

JESSICA SEELIGER, PhDJESSICA SEELIGER, PhD
* TUBERCULOSIS Scholar

State University of New York, Stony Brook, NY
BIOMEDICAL RESEARCH GRANT

Targeting Latent and Multi-Drug Resistant TB
Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb), infects one-third of the world’s population. Most infected individuals have latent TB infections and have no symptoms. However, decreased immune responses can trigger latent TB to reactivate and cause infectious disease. Some TB disease can become resistant to first line medications and therefore, new therapies are needed to treat multi- and extremely drug-resistant TB strains. Dr. Seeliger and team will use a novel chemical method to evaluate a family of Mtb enzymes with diverse functions essential for bacterial survival as potential drug targets. These enzymes may be promising for developing next-generation therapies against latent infections and multi-drug resistant TB.