$13.6 Million Dollars. That’s how much the American Lung Association Research Institute invested this year to breathe life into over 100 groundbreaking projects that shape the future of lung health. We support trailblazing research, novel ideas and innovative approaches, and our funded researchers are empowered to investigate a wide range of lung health topics, including asthma, COPD, lung cancer and more.

Our Awards and Grants program spans many respiratory diseases and career stages. Each year, scientists interested in funding from the Lung Association submit grant proposals which are carefully considered and scored by panels of scientific experts in the field. Awardees research a wide range of complex issues from bench lab science to clinical trials, to developing policies to protect public health.

This year, 129 projects were funded through the Lung Association Research Institute. Let’s take a look at the work of three promising researchers we funded.

Amanda Wilson, Ph.D. Catalyst Award

Dr. Amanda Wilson from the University of Arizona was funded by a Catalyst award for her study on asthma in children. Her project, titled, “Protecting Asthmatic Children’s Health by Reducing Respiratory Viral Infections in Schools: A Novel Risk Analysis Tool” is aimed at improving protection for kids from getting sick.

The burden of respiratory viral diseases (flu, RSV, COVID-19) is on the rise in the U.S., posing risks for children with asthma, affecting one out of every 12 kids. Health personnel in schools often advocate for ways to reduce the spread of diseases in classrooms. Dr. Wilson’s previous work showed that school staff members need more support to develop and interpret guidance on reducing disease transmission.

Dr. Wilson’s research aims to create a risk calculator tool for school health personnel to support real-time and inexpensive decision-making regarding interventions to reduce virus spread in classrooms across the U.S. She plans to test the tool using real-world data ahead of a future larger study that will make these tools accessible across the U.S., which will ultimately help kids miss less school time and be healthier overall.

Lucas Ferrari de Andrade, Ph.D. Lung Cancer Discovery Award

Dr. Ferrari de Andrade, from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, was funded by a Lung Cancer Discovery award, the Lung Association’s largest grant, for his work in immunotherapy for lung cancer. His project, titled “Promoting Natural Killer Cell-driven Immunity Against Lung Cancer,” aims to improve the effectiveness of this treatment for lung cancer patients.

Immunotherapy is a type of cancer treatment that uses substances made by the body or in a laboratory to give a boost to the immune system, helping the body find and destroy cancer cells. It plays a pivotal role in the elimination of tumor cells, but many patients who are being treated for lung cancer are either resistant or develop resistance to the current immunotherapies available, which means that the tumors adapt and evade the treatment.

Dr. Ferrari de Andrade’s research aims to develop a unique and alternative approach which can train white blood cells to recognize and destroy tumor cells. Eventually, researchers hope that this work will lead to new treatments, prolonging patients’ lives or even developing a cure for this disease.

Mohsan Saeed, Ph.D. COVID-19 & Emerging Respiratory Viruses Research Award

Dr. Mohsan Saeed, from Boston University, was awarded the COVID-19 & Emerging Respiratory Viruses Research Award for his work on COVID-19. His project, titled “Deciphering the Determinants of Coronaviral Tissue Tropism,” seeks to uncover how COVID-19 variants differ in how infective they are.

Previous work by Dr. Saeed showed that in contrast to all other SARS-CoV-2 variants that mainly infect the lungs, the relatively recent Omicron variant tends to infect the upper respiratory tract. They think it is most likely because of modifications to the spike protein.

The goal of Dr. Saeed’s research is to figure out how and why Omicron prefers to target the upper respiratory tract and use that information to improve treatment and outcomes of this disease. The impact of this work extends beyond the Omicron variant, understanding how viruses mutate to become more infective can help develop new treatments and methods to slow or stop the spread of respiratory viruses.

As we celebrate these researchers and the hundreds of other unique projects, we invite you to be part of our mission. Click to Meet the Researchers to learn more and stay updated on our progress.

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