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Three University of Maryland Researchers Join American Lung Association Research Team for 2019-2020

Lung Association expands research investment to $8.7 million, making headway on its commitment to double its investment in research

(November 20, 2019) - Annapolis, Maryland

For more information please contact:

Valerie Gleason
[email protected]
717-971-1123

– With a vision of a world free of lung disease, the American Lung Association funds a wide range of research to improve lung health, including lung cancer, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) pulmonary fibrosis and more. Today the organization announced its new research team, which includes Gregg Duncan, Ph.D. from the University of Maryland at College Park; Katharina Maisel, Ph.D. from the University of Maryland at College Park; and Zafar Zafari, Ph.D., from the University of Maryland at Baltimore. This year, the Lung Association has also increased its research investment to $8.7 million, through awards for both our Airways Clinical Research Center (ACRC) Network and its innovative Awards & Grants program. This announcement comes at an important time, as November is both Lung Cancer Awareness Month and COPD Awareness Month. 

The Awards and Grants Program provides investigators with the funds, at all levels of their career, to conduct novel and promising research to prevent, treat and even cure lung disease. The ACRC is the nation's largest not-for-profit network of clinical research centers dedicated to asthma and COPD treatment research that promises to have a direct, positive impact on patient care. 

Research projects funded by the Lung Association are carefully selected through rigorous scientific review and represent the investigation of a wide range of complex issues to help combat and reduce the suffering and burden of lung disease. See project overviews of all funded projects at Lung.org/research-team. 

Innovation Award

Dr. Duncan’s research at the University of Maryland-College Park, titled “A New Way to Monitor Mucus in Obstructive Lung Diseases,” was given the Innovation Award.

About the Research: Obstructive lung diseases such as asthma, cystic fibrosis, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease affect millions worldwide and there has been little innovation in diagnostics made available to assess these patients. Given the limited options, we propose to use nanotechnology in the design of a novel diagnostic tool to monitor physical changes in mucus associated with the progression of disease. The proposed research offers a new, highly valuable means to diagnose patients and potentially improve clinical outcomes for those with these chronic lung diseases.

Dalsemer Grant

Dr. Maisel’s research at the University of Maryland-College Park, titled “Use of Immunotherapies for Treating LAM” was given the Dalsemer Grant.

About the Research: Pulmonary Lymphangioleiomyomatosis (LAM) is a devastating progressive disease primarily affecting women of childbearing age. In LAM patients, abnormal muscle-like cells begin to grow out of control in certain organs or tissues, especially the lungs, lymph nodes, and kidneys. Two hallmarks of LAM are expanded lymphatic vessels and an immunosuppressive microenvironment in the lungs. Dr. Maisel will determine the effects of LAM cells on lymphatic functions, and therapeutic efficacy of immunotherapies used in combination with rapamycin, the only FDA-approved LAM treatment. This work will bring novel insights into effects of LAM on lymphatic functions and may provide new avenues for LAM treatments.

Public Policy Award

Dr. Zafari’s research at the University of Maryland at Baltimore, titled “Which Interventions for COPD are Most Cost-Effective?” was given the Public Policy Award. 

About the Research: Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is the fourth leading cause of death in the United States. The chronic condition is associated with a substantial health and economic burden on society. To reduce the burden of COPD, researchers have attempted to design new medical and policy interventions. However, these interventions come at a cost, and it is not known whether they produce value for the resources they consume. Dr. Zafari will develop a national simulation model of COPD to quantify the natural history of disease progression, as well as lifetime health and costs of COPD patients in the U.S. He will measure and compare health and economic benefits of a variety of different medical (including medications and pulmonary rehabilitation) and policy (including smoking cessation policies) interventions to see which of them would produce the highest value for society.

Lung cancer is the #1 cancer killer of both women and men in the U.S. During November’s Lung Cancer Awareness Month, the American Lung Association’s LUNG FORCE initiative is dedicated to increasing awareness about the risk of this deadly disease and uniting Americans to raise funds for critical lung cancer research. The Lung Association is funding many research grants dedicated to lung cancer research, including the Lung Cancer Discovery Award. 

COPD is by itself the fourth leading cause of death in the U.S. The Lung Association is using this November – COPD Awareness Month – as an opportunity to educate Americans on all aspects of COPD including causes, prevention, disease management and treatment and how to find patient and caregiver support. The Lung Association is also funding a number of studies focused on COPD, in addition to the ongoing clinical trials being conducted by the ACRC. 

See project overviews of all funded projects at Lung.org/research-team.

For media interested in speaking with an expert about lung health and the American Lung Association Research Team, contact Val Gleason at [email protected] or 717-971-1123. 

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About the American Lung Association

The American Lung Association is the leading organization working to save lives by improving lung health and preventing lung disease, through research, education and advocacy. The work of the American Lung Association is focused on four strategic imperatives: to defeat lung cancer; to improve the air we breathe; to reduce the burden of lung disease on individuals and their families; and to eliminate tobacco use and tobacco-related diseases. For more information about the American Lung Association, a holder of the coveted 4-star rating from Charity Navigator and a Gold-Level GuideStar Member, or to support the work it does, call 1-800-LUNGUSA (1-800-586-4872) or visit: Lung.org.

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