Amid Pandemic, American Lung Association Expands Awards and Grants Research Investment on COVID-19, Lung Diseases

$11.55 million invested in 98 total research investments on promising research, including COVID-19, lung cancer, vaping impact on lung health

The American Lung Association has expanded its awards and grants program through its COVID-19 Action Initiative to include 12 new COVID-19 research awards, and today announced an investment of approximately $11.55 million in promising research to fund an expected 98 awards for 2021. Despite economic pressures from the COVID-19 pandemic, the American Lung Association made the strategic decision to double down and increase the number of research awards by approximately 33% over the previous fiscal year.

“As our nation faces COVID-19, we have not only witnessed its toll on our health, but we have also seen how air pollution, existing lung diseases like asthma and COPD and even wildfire smoke has impacted the health outcomes of those facing COVID-19,” said American Lung Association President and CEO Harold Wimmer. “With an eye always toward saving more lives, the American Lung Association has consistently funded promising lung health research over the decades from leading scientific minds. We’re proud to expand our network in search of bold solutions for COVID-19 as well as methods to improve the lung health and lives of all Americans, including those living with lung disease.”

Research projects funded by the Lung Association are carefully selected through rigorous scientific review and represent the investigation of a wide range of complex issues to help combat and reduce the suffering and burden of lung disease.

Meet our full research team including our current awardees and read the full abstracts of the American Lung Association research team at Below is a sampling of research projects of awardees:

  • Lung Cancer Discovery Award – one of eight new awardees, Philip Greenburg, M.D., will study adoptive cell transfer as an alternative to immune checkpoint therapy (ICT). ICT enhances immune response against tumors by “re-awakening” T cell responses, but only half of patients benefit from this therapy. Adoptive cell transfer (ACT) involves the engineering patients’ T cells to recognize tumors through adoptive cell transfer, allowing for a generation of therapeutic anti-tumor responses.
  • Innovation Award – One of thirteen new awardees, Yuru Liu, Ph.D., will investigate how the body repairs alveoli, as a better understanding could facilitate the discovery of therapeutic targets to accelerate lung repair and prevent chronic lung conditions resulting from improper recovery.
  • Catalyst Award – one of seven new awardees, Lokesh Sharma, Ph.D., will study the inflammation associated with lung disease to determine if proteins called type 1 interferons limit inflammation, with the aim to also boost this anti-inflammatory process to improve outcomes of lung disease.
  • COVID-19 Respiratory Virus Research Award – one of 12 new awardees, Marta Maria Gaglia, Ph.D., will study the hyperactive and uncontrolled immune response to COVID-19, which is likely linked to the ability of the virus to manipulate and evade our immune responses. This project will seek to determine how the virus controls our immune system and which viral proteins are involved, with the aim of determining the consequences of inactivating the viral proteins on immune signals to reduce the uncontrolled immune system response to develop better treatments and reduce transmission. Read the full list of COVID-19 Research Awards.
  • Public Policy Grant – One of two new awardees, Andrew Stokes, Ph.D., will examine national data to determine the association of e-cigarette use behaviors  and product characteristics, such as flavors, with respiratory symptoms and events to inform state and federal efforts to regulate sales, packaging and marketing.
  • Allergic Respiratory Diseases Research Award – With a grant co-funded by the American Lung Association and the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, Miranda Curtiss, M.D., Ph.D., will study the underlying mechanisms that cause allergic diseases, seeking to better understand allergic asthma and test the roles of genes that maintain allergic inflammation (dendritic cells) and the effector cells that cause inflammatory damage during allergic reactions (T cells). 
  • Dalsemer Award – Nunzia Caporarella, Ph.D., will study the role of blood vessels and the ERG gene in the role of regulating the development of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, as well as opportunities for potential therapies using this gene to attempt to cure the disease.
  • Priority Impact Award – Jay L. Zweier, M.D., will study the connections between e-cigarettes and lung cancer.

In addition to the new award recipients, the Lung Association expanded its own Airways Clinical Research Centers (ACRC) Network’s ongoing research in scope and engagement. The ACRC is the nation’s largest network of nonprofit clinical trials focusing on asthma and COPD, and now – COVID-19.

The American Lung Association’s ACRC was also invited to join the National Institute of Health’s (NIH’s) National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute’s (NHLBI’s) Collaborating Network of Networks for Evaluating COVID-19 and Therapeutic Strategies (CONNECTS). The goal of CONNECTS is to build on NHLBI’s existing clinical research networks across the nation to better understand the risk of severe illness from COVID-19 and to identify therapies that will slow the disease progression and help speed recovery.

New COVID-19 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 over the next three years with an aim to end COVID-19 and 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 and prevent future outbreaks by investing in respiratory virus research.

For more information about the new grant awardees and the American Lung Association Research Team, visit For media seeking an interview with a American Lung Association-funded researcher or lung health expert, contact Stephanie Goldina at [email protected] or 312-801-7629.

For more information, contact:

Elizabeth Cook
[email protected]

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