Two University of Alabama Researchers Awarded American Lung Association Grants to Study COPD and Asthma

Today, the American Lung Association Research Institute announced it has awarded $13.6 million in research grants to fund 129 innovative projects to advance today’s science to end lung disease tomorrow, including two projects from researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Joe Chiles, M.D. was awarded the American Lung Association ACRC Early Career Investigator Award for his work on chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Jessy Deshane, Ph.D. was awarded the American Lung Association ACRC Pilot Grant Award for her work on asthma.

Lung research is critical because nearly 740,000 people in Alabama live 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, lung cancer, infectious lung diseases and more.

“We are honored to welcome Dr. Chiles and Dr. Deshane to the elite American Lung Association Research Institute and our efforts to fundamentally transform lung health here in Alabama and across the nation,” said Ashley Lyerly, senior director of advocacy, Alabama 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.”

COPD, which includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema, is progressive and incurable. People who have COPD and show evidence of weight loss are at a higher risk for death and are less able to complete their daily activities. However, weight loss is not always recognized in pulmonary clinics. Dr. Chiles’ research aims to improve the care for patients with COPD who are losing weight. His work will utilize the use of electronic medical record alerts to notify providers when their patients are losing weight so that they may be referred to pulmonary rehabilitation to improve quality of life and potentially reverse weight loss.

"I am grateful for the support of the American Lung Association in furthering our research on the role of weight loss in people living with COPD,” said Dr. Chiles. “This work will lead to improved outcomes for people with COPD who develop weight loss, such as better quality of life and better physical function."

Asthma is a chronic inflammatory lung disease that affects millions in the United States and worldwide, with obesity identified as a potential risk factor for severity. Recent studies have established that gut microbial signatures may predict risk for chronic lung disease. Dr. Deshane’s research will evaluate the impact of probiotics on insulin resistance and asthma symptoms in patients with asthma and obesity. Her work will study proinflammatory biomarkers and respiratory microbial and metabolomic signatures.

“We are excited for the opportunity to work with the American Lung Association to evaluate the impact of microbiome on the inflammatory profile in asthmatics,” Dr. Deshane said. “We hope our work can serve to further the understanding of how our microbial environment impacts our health.”

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.

For more information, contact:

Victoria O'Neill
(312) 273-5890
[email protected]

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