3 Boston-area Researchers Awarded with Funding to Research COVID-19 from American Lung Association

3 of 12 National Awards go to Boston area institutions: Boston University, Massachusetts General Hospital, and Tufts University

With more than eight million confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the United States and an ongoing surge this fall, the American Lung Association is funding promising research through its COVID-19 Action Initiative to accelerate the search for COVID-19 solutions. Joining the American Lung Association’s research team are three Boston-area researchers:

  • Marta Maria Gaglia, Ph.D with Tufts University, studying the innate immune responses by SARS-CoV-2;
  • Marcia B. Goldberg, M.D., with Massachusetts General Hospital, studying the pathogenic immune response in ARDS (acute respiratory distress syndrome) during COVID-19 infection.
  • Andrew A. Wilson, M.D. with Boston University, studying the respiratory response to SARS-CoV-2 and additional risk of cigarette smoke or e-cigarette vapor exposure; and

Dr. Gaglia, Dr. Goldberg, and Dr. Wilson join just 9 other awardees nationwide for the inaugural COVID-19 and Respiratory Virus Research Award, who are funded at $100,000 a year for two years. This award explores important avenues to find better treatments to reduce the burden we have experienced due this virus.

"The American Lung Association is at the forefront of the fight against COVID-19 and I’m excited to have been awarded this funding and join their slate of esteemed researchers,” said Dr. Gaglia.  “In our project at Tufts University, we will examine how SARS-CoV-2 prevents the cells it infects from detecting the virus and blocking the infection early on. This is important because it is clear that severe COVID-19 disease stems at least in part from our immune system misfiring against the virus.  We also aim to discover more about coronaviruses in general so that we are more prepared to fight against this family of viruses in the future.”

Dr. Goldberg said, “New and better treatments for severe COVID-19 infection are sorely needed. My co-investigators at Massachusetts General Hospital and I are thrilled to receive support from the American Lung Association to study the severe inflammation that occurs in the lungs, impairs breathing, and causes death in this disease. Insights we gain into these processes have the potential to lead to the development of new drugs for treating COVID-19.”

Dr. Wilson said, “A limited but growing literature suggests that both cigarette smoking and ecig vaping are associated with increased risk of COVID-19 susceptibility or disease severity. My team at Boston University has recently developed a model that allows us to study SARS-CoV-2 viral infection in patient-derived lung cells. Because the surface of these cells is exposed to air in our model system, we can also expose them to other environmental stimuli, such as cigarette smoke or e-cig vapor. We are excited to apply these models to determine the effects of these common exposures on human lung cells and their response to SARS-CoV-2 infection.”

“For more than a century, the American Lung Association has served as the nation’s champion of lung health, and today we’re pleased to fund promising COVID-19 research from the nation’s leading scientific minds,” said American Lung Association Executive Director in Boston Karen Whitefield. “We’re pleased to see our Boston research community so strongly represented by Dr. Gaglia, Dr. Goldberg and Dr. Wilson as they seek bold new approaches to treatment of COVID-19 in our shared goal to save more lives.”

These new research efforts are made possible through the American Lung Association’s COVID-19 Action Initiative, a $25 million investment in research, education, advocacy and coalition building over the next three years with an aim to end COVID-19 and defend against future respiratory viruses. The COVID-19 Action Initiative will be used to provide free lung health education to those in need, protect public health by advocating for COVID-19 and flu vaccines in underserved communities of color and prevent future outbreaks by investing in respiratory virus research.

Since the launch of the COVID-19 Action Initiative, the organization announced a new research award and placed an urgent call for applications for the most promising research studies on COVID-19, and immediately expanded an existing research clinical trial to include COVID-19 research. The American Lung Association’s Airways Clinical Research Centers network (ACRC) is the nation’s largest network of nonprofit clinical trials focusing on asthma and COPD, and now – COVID-19.

“By funding the most promising research and leveraging our existing ACRC network, we were able to nimbly implement new and promising research to support the lung health of Americans during this pandemic,” said Whitefield.

For more information about the COVID-19 Action Initiative or the American Lung Association’s COVID-19 research award recipients and projects, visit Lung.org/covid19-award. For media seeking an interview with a COVID-19 researcher or lung health expert, contact Jennifer Solomon at 516-680-8927 or [email protected].

For more information, contact:

Jennifer Solomon
(516) 680-8927
[email protected]

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