Boston, MA | January 5, 2021
In an effort to save lives by improving lung health and preventing lung disease, the American Lung Association invests in promising lung health research. The organization recently announced an investment in 98 promising lung health research awards. Thirteen awards went to local researchers in Boston, Massachusetts, the most for any one state. Researchers are affiliated with top Boston health and research institutions such as Boston University, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Inc., Children's Hospital Boston, Harvard Medical School, Massachusetts General Hospital, and Trustees of Boston College.
“More than 36 million Americans are living with lung disease, placing them at increased risk for the most severe impacts of COVID-19. The American Lung Association recognizes that now is a crucial time to champion lung health, and is investing in promising lung health research, including with our many incredible researchers in the Boston area,” said American Lung Association Executive Director in Boston Karen Whitefield. “Boston has truly become a hub for lung disease research, and we’re proud to support these scientists to realize our vision of a world free of lung disease.”
The researchers and their studies include:
- Avrum Spira, M.D., Boston University, aiming to “Intercept Lung Cancer Through Immune, Imaging, & Molecular Evaluation (InTIME)”
- Andrew Stokes, Ph.D., Boston University, will examine the association of e-cigarette use with respiratory health
- Andrew Synn, M.D., Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, will be studying a new chest imaging method to detect pulmonary vascular disease
- Shiladitya Sengupta, Ph.D., Brigham and Women's Hospital, Inc., will study the use of nanotechnology to target lung cancer
- Jinjun Shi, Ph.D. Brigham and Women's Hospital, Inc., will be researching making lung cancer responsive to treatment for other cancers
- Carla Kim, Ph.D., Children's Hospital Boston, will be studying the use of “organoid” model of lung cancer to test treatment
- Nada Y Kalaany, Ph.D., Children's Hospital Boston, will be identifying metabolic alterations in lung cancer-associated cachexia
- Meredith Brooks, Ph.D., Harvard Medical School, will be researching eospatial signals in pediatric tuberculosis
- Aaron N Hata, M.D., Ph.D., Massachusetts General Hospital, will be exploiting potent anti-viral immunity against lung cancer through antigenic reprograming
- Summer Hawkins, Ph.D., Trustees of Boston College, will examine how tobacco and air pollution policies impact birth outcomes
In addition to lung disease and lung cancer research, the Lung Association is also 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 in Boston are:
- 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.
Dr. Gaglia, Dr. Goldberg, and Dr. Wilson join just nine 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.”
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]
The American Lung Association is the leading organization working to save lives by improving lung health and preventing lung disease through education, advocacy and research. The work of the American Lung Association is focused on four strategic imperatives: to defeat lung cancer; to champion clean air for all; to improve the quality of life for those with lung disease and their families; and to create a tobacco-free future. For more information about the American Lung Association, which has a 4-star rating from Charity Navigator and is a Gold-Level GuideStar Member, or to support the work it does, call 1-800-LUNGUSA (1-800-586-4872) or visit: Lung.org.
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