Pittsburgh Researcher Awarded $200,000 American Lung Association Grant to Study Respiratory Viruses

The American Lung Association Research Institute announced it awarded $13.6 million in research grants to fund 129 innovative projects to advance today’s science to end lung disease tomorrow, including a project from Pittsburgh. Georgios Kitsios, MD, PhD from University of Pittsburgh and Pittsburgh, PA resident was awarded a $100,000 COVID-19 Respiratory Virus Research Award, which is renewable for an additional year for a total of $200,000.

Lung research is critical because nearly 1.7 million people in Pennsylvania are living with lung disease and each year, millions of people are impacted by respiratory viruses like COVID-19 and influenza. Through the Awards and Grants Program, the Lung Association supports trailblazing research, novel ideas and innovative approaches. The funded researchers investigate a wide range of lung health topics, including asthma, COPD, COVID-19, lung cancer, infectious lung diseases and more

“We are honored to welcome Dr. Georgios Kitsios to join the elite American Lung Association Research Institute and our efforts to fundamentally transform lung health here in Pennsylvania and across the nation,” said Caroline Hutchinson, Executive Director at the Lung Association. “Our research investment is key to unlocking solutions to alleviate the burden of lung disease. The Lung Association’s Awards and Grants Program promotes innovative research, collaboration, translation of discoveries, and scientific exchange to transform today’s science into tomorrow’s solutions. Because when you can’t breathe, nothing else matters.”

Kitsios’ project, entitled Lung CovID-19 Interactions with Microbiota and Host (LUCID-IMHO) study will focus on how the virus and immune system interact with microbes in the ventilated lungs of COVID-19 patients. The sickest patients with COVID-19 require ventilator life support to help their breathing, but up to half of COVID-19 patients on ventilators can develop a life-threatening infection, called ventilator-associated pneumonia (VAP), caused by organisms other than SARS-CoV-2.

The goal of the LUCID-IMHO study is to develop better diagnostic methods for VAP by using sensitive technologies to detect the genetic material of the organisms causing the infection, offering a level of precision that was previously unattainable. Furthermore, the study will delve into identifying the pivotal risk factors that contribute to the development of VAP. Ultimately, the mission of this research is to delineate specific targets for more prompt therapeutic and preventive interventions,

thereby significantly improving the treatment of VAP in COVID-19 patients and individuals affected by similar viral illnesses.

"I am deeply grateful to the American Lung Association for honoring me with the COVID-19 Respiratory Virus Research Award," said Dr. Kitsios. "Over the course of more than three years since the onset of this pandemic, ventilator-associated pneumonia (VAP) continues to pose a formidable challenge for critical care pulmonologists like myself. It is heart-wrenching to witness our relentless efforts in preserving the lives of patients and mitigating the damage caused by COVID-19 in their lungs, only to lose them to a serious VAP triggered by bacterial or fungal organisms. This grant gives me the opportunity to better understand the intricacies of VAP's root causes and work on improving our diagnostic methods, so that we can do more for our patients and hopefully save lives.”

This year, awards were given in different categories addressing many aspects of lung disease; ALA/AAAAI Allergic Respiratory Diseases Award, ALA/ATS/CHEST Foundation Respiratory Health Equity Research Award, Catalyst Award, COVID-19 Respiratory Virus Research Award, Dalsemer Award, Innovation Award and Lung Cancer Discovery Award. Research projects funded by the Lung Association are carefully selected through rigorous scientific peer review and awardees investigate a wide range of complex issues.

The Lung Association’s Research Institute includes the Awards and Grants program, and also the Airways Clinical Research Network, the nation's largest not-for-profit network of clinical research centers dedicated to asthma and COPD treatment research. The Lung Association is currently accepting applications for its 2024-2025 research awards and grants cycle. For more information about the active research funding opportunities, visit Lung.org/awards.

For more information about the new grant awardees and the entire American Lung Association Research Team, visit Lung.org/research-team.

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For more information, contact:

Valerie Gleason
717-971-1123
[email protected]

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