Southern California Researchers Awarded American Lung Association Grants to Study Long-Haul COVID-19 and Small Cell Lung Cancer

The American Lung Association Research Institute announced it 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 in Southern California. Dr. Mona Alotaibi of the University of California – San Diego was awarded the COVID-19 Respiratory Virus Research Award to study long-haul COVID-19 (PASC), a prolongation of coronavirus symptoms and effects. Dr. Claudia Benavente from the University of California - Irvine was awarded the Lung Cancer Discovery Award to study new approaches to small cell lung cancer (SCLC), investigating the power of the UHRF1 protein.     

Lung research is critical because 4,031,000 in California are living 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. Mona Alotaibi and Dr. Claudia Benavente to the elite American Lung Association Research Institute and our efforts to fundamentally transform lung health here in California and across the nation,” said Allison Hickey, Division Vice President of the American 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.”

Dr. Alotaibi’s project will focus on analyzing the chemical makeup of PASC and identifying significant biomarkers to understand how to diagnose and treat PASC.

Dr. Benavente’s will focus on the potential of the UHRF1 protein, centered on better understanding the therapeutic potential of the protein and how it may impact the treatment approach to SCLC.

“Patients with SCLC are often limited in their treatment options due to the limited availability of medicines for this specific type of cancer. The protein UHRF1 has been identified as a possible target to alleviate tumor burden in SCLC,” said Dr. Benavente. “As there are existing drugs that can shut down UHRF1-regulating enzymes, our study will explore how such medications can be used to treat SCLC.”

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 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

For more information about the new grant awardees and the entire American Lung Association Research Team, visit


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