American Lung Association Funds Critical COVID-19 Discoveries

Organization’s COVID-19 Action Initiative reports successes in first two years of program

The American Lung Association’s COVID-19 Action Initiative, which launched in 2020 shortly after the pandemic hit the U.S., has resulted in important findings about COVID-19.

Since the inception of its COVID-19 Action Initiative, the organization has invested in 26 research projects, including the Lung Association’s COVID-19 & Respiratory Viruses Research Award, Airways Clinical Research Centers’ ancillary studies and the support of grants with the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. The Lung Association will announce more COVID-19 grant recipients in the fall. Through the initiative, the organization has also distributed more than 300,000 masks to communities in need, and successfully advocated for legislation that improved coverage of COVID-19 tests and vaccines.

“COVID-19 is expected to remain in our lives, so continued research, advocacy and public health funding is critical as we learn to live with this disease,” said Harold Wimmer, National President and CEO of the American Lung Association. “Research from the bench to the bedside to help improve public health typically takes several years, however, throughout the pandemic we have seen it happen very quickly. We are proud of our impressive research team for their speed and expertise in helping find ways to better understand, prevent and treat COVID-19”.

Three notable studies, funded by the COVID-19 Action Initiative and the Lung Association’s Awards and Grants Program, are already advancing our knowledge of COVID-19.

COVID-19 Vaccine Effectiveness in Pregnant Women, Kids and Infants

Bria Coates, M.D., Lung Association Research Team member and critical care physician at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago, contributed to research for the study “Effectiveness of Maternal Vaccination with mRNA COVID-19 Vaccine During Pregnancy Against COVID-19–Associated Hospitalization in Infants Aged <6 Months” published in the February 18 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR). This research provides evidence that pregnant women who were vaccinated for COVID-19 reduces the risk of infants being hospitalized from COVID-19 by 60%.

In addition to the vaccine research, Dr. Coates is studying how age affects the immune system response in fighting the SARS-CoV-2 virus. These findings will help clinicians understand how the virus affects children and adults and better personalize treatment.

“Kids get disproportionately ill with viral infections. The flu, RSV and many other viruses cause excessive illness in young children, and they fill up our ICUs every winter, so I have always been interested in why children are so suspectable to viral respiratory illnesses,” said Dr. Coates. “COVID-19 was the opposite. It is very interesting to be able to compare and contrast why some children are affected by the flu much more than COVID-19.”

Nasal Spray to Treat COVID-19

Christina Barkauskas, M.D., Lung Association researcher from Duke University, is studying a drug called niclosamide, In an article published in the Duke Chronicle, Dr. Barkauskas and her colleagues found that using this drug helped block three of the six stages of viral infection from COVID-19. These studies build the early foundation for niclosamide to be assessed by the FDA as a potential new treatment for COVID-19, before moving on to clinical studies in humans.

Discovering How COVID-19 Triggers Inflammation

Lung Association researcher from Massachusetts General Hospital Marcia Goldberg, M.D., and co-author Michael Filbin, M.D., M.S., published a study in Nature on April 6, 2022 explaining why COVID-19 causes severe inflammation in some people, which may lead to acute respiratory distress and multi-organ damage. These findings may explain why monoclonal antibody treatments tend to work for COVID-19 infection only when given early in infection.

In April 2020, the Lung Association swiftly responded to the global crisis by launching the COVID-19 Action Initiative to address COVID and defend against future respiratory virus pandemics. The organization committed $25 million to expand the Association’s ongoing respiratory research program, enhance key public health measures, and establish an advanced network to stop future respiratory virus pandemics. The initiative also works with public and private entities to increase research collaboration and develop new vaccines, detection tests and treatment therapies.

The COVID-19 Action Initiative is supported by the Lung Association’s generous funders.

For media seeking an interview with an American Lung Association-funded researcher or lung health expert, contact Jill Dale at [email protected] or at 312-940-7001.


For more information, contact:

Jill Dale
[email protected]

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