American Lung Association Invests $13.1 Million in New Research to Address Emerging Lung Health Challenges

Organization funds more than 130 promising research grants on lung cancer, asthma, COVID-19 and more

Lung health research is more important than ever. Never have we faced so many challenges to our lung health, including COVID-19, vaping and smoke from increased wildfires. To find solutions to alleviate the burden of lung disease, today the American Lung Association announced it awarded research grants and is now funding more than 100 innovative projects. The funded projects address a wide range of lung health topics, including asthma, COPD, lung cancer, COVID-19 and more.

For its 2022-2023 funding cycle, the Lung Association funded $13.1 million for more than 130 lung health research grants. Through the Awards and Grants Program, the Lung Association supports trailblazing research, novel ideas and innovative approaches. For this round of funding, the Lung Association placed a greater focus on strategic partnerships with key organizations like American Thoracic Society and CHEST, and grants that focus on equity like the Harold Amos Scholar.

“More than 34 million Americans live with lung disease, including asthma, lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). On top of that, we are seeing emerging lung health threats that we have never seen before. That’s why the American Lung Association is investing in the top scientific minds to find better ways to reduce the burden of lung disease and investigate the long-term impacts of lung health challenges like vaping, climate change and COVID-19,” said Harold Wimmer, President and CEO of the American Lung Association. “We are honored to welcome our 2023 Research Team and empower them to help us prevent lung disease and improve the lives of people living with lung disease for years to come.”

Research projects funded by the Lung Association are carefully selected through rigorous scientific review and awardees represent the investigation of a wide range of complex issues. Awards were given in eight different categories; 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, Lung Cancer Discovery Award, and Public Policy Research Award.

A few of the recent grant awardees include:

Lung Cancer Discovery Award Presented to Moumita Ghosh, PhD, from the University of Colorado Denver for his study on lung cancer titled, “Deconstructing and reconstructing the impact of the immune microenvironment.”  When it comes to treatment of lung cancer, early detection is critical to the success of lung cancer treatments. One potential marker that signals early lung cancer could be changes in progenitor cells, which are a type of stem cell critical for tissue repair and maintenance of a healthy lung. Dr. Ghosh’s lab discovered that these cells are impaired in people with lung cancer, which coincides with an increased level of immune cells. Their study will look at epithelial progenitor cells and how their function is affected by their location relative to a tumor, as well as the presence of immune cells. This investigation could lead to new methods of early detection of lung cancer and also new targets to enhance progenitor function and slow or stop the formation of cancer. 

Innovation Award Presented to Aparna Sundaram, MD, from the University of California, San Francisco, for his project, titled “Mechanisms of Cadherin-11 Modulation of Force Transmission in Asthma.” Dr. Sundaram’s group has shown that individual smooth muscle cells in the airways are attached to the surrounding airway by tethering proteins, like an anchor. This study will examine the role of the tethering protein called cadherin-11 in coordinating neighboring smooth muscle cells to contract, and how an allergic environment may influence this action. Understanding the structure of the airways, and how the smooth muscles anchor to the airways could lead to new therapies that can block this action, and thus prevent airway narrowing in asthma. 

Catalyst Award Presented to Alexandra C. Racanelli, MD, PhD, from the Joan & Sanford I. Weill Medical College of Cornell University, for her project, titled “The role of endothelial derived leucine-rich 2-alpha glycoprotein-1 (LRG1) in the pathogenesis of COPD.” Dr. Racanelli’s lab has discovered that dysfunction of blood vessels in the lung leads to the development of the type of lung destruction found in COPD. They will use a mouse model of COPD and human lung cells to better understand how this dysfunction develops. In particular, they will focus on a specific protein called LRG1, and see if excessive levels lead to blood vessel abnormalities and eventually development of COPD. These findings could help develop new therapies targeting the impairment in blood vessels that cause COPD, and eventually improve the lives of millions of patients. 

The Lung Association’s Nationwide Research Program includes the Awards and Grants Program, and also our Airways Clinical Research Network, the nation's largest not-for-profit network of clinical research centers dedicated to asthma and COPD treatment research.

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:

Jill Dale
312-940-7001
[email protected]

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