President's Research Report: What You Make Possible

A Message from the President

Hope. No word describes research better than hope. Medical research delivers the hope of better treatment and even cures for disease. The promise of a healthier tomorrow, for ourselves, and our loved ones. That’s why the American Lung Association invests heavily in promising research in all areas of lung health. And this past year, we’ve increased our research investment to bring even more hope to those with lung disease.

The Lung Association has been a leader in lung disease research funding for more than 115 years. Over that time, we’ve funded more than 1,700 promising research projects, and just since 2000 alone, we have invested more than $198 million of your generous contributions on research. This year, our Research Team is working to unlock the secrets of a wide array of lung diseases, from COVID-19 to COPD, and from asthma to lung cancer, through our investment of $13.2 million dollars in research.

Our research program is unique, because we are the only non-profit that addresses ALL diseases of the lungs. We do this by strategically funding only the most promising scientists and identifying new avenues of research and innovation, as well as bringing together the brightest minds in the field to share their knowledge. We support the entire lifecycle of research starting at the bench, translated to the clinic, while fostering new partnerships and collaborations to ultimately improve the lung health and treatment of lung disease in all Americans.

Our research program is made up of two critical parts. Our Awards and Grants Program funds researchers at all levels, who are studying a wide range of lung health topics. Our ever-growing Airways Clinical Research Center (ACRC) network is the largest not-for-profit network of clinical research centers focused on asthma and COPD treatment research that promises to have an immediate impact on the lives of patients.

This report is just a glimpse of all the exciting studies we are funding. In it, you’ll meet some members of our Research Team, like Bria Coates, M.D. whose research showed that a COVID-19 vaccination protects both the mother and her baby. You’ll also learn about Moumita Ghosh, PhD, whose work is helping to improve early detection of lung cancer.

Remember, though, the most important member of our Research Team is YOU! As we work together on all our many promising research projects, your support is what keeps hope alive for now and for future generations. Our deepest thanks for your commitment, and for investing in a healthier future for all Americans through the American Lung Association.

With deepest gratitude, 

—Harold P. Wimmer, National President & CEO, American Lung Association

 Harold P. Wimmer

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New ACRC Study Focuses on Respiratory Health for Women

Diet and air pollution are two modifiable factors that may contribute to respiratory health in women, who are more likely than men to have uncontrolled asthma. A newly launched study by Jing Gennie Wang, M.D., at The Ohio State University aims to reduce the asthmatic response to pollution using a plant-based diet. The study will use data from the Nurses’ Health Study cohorts of women with asthma and explore if those with a long history of plant-based diet could be at reduced risk for asthma.

This is important because this work will establish a foundation for subsequent interventions promoting healthy dietary practices to improve respiratory health for women.

Dr. Wang was funded by the Lung Association ACRC Early Career Investigator award, which was established to support the next generation of rising stars in clinical research.

The ACRC is the true jewel in the crown of our research program. With your continued support, it will continue to shine! Learn more at

Your Donations Keep the Research Life Cycle Moving

Every dollar you give empowers our researchers to make lifesaving progress against lung disease.

Aparna Sundaram, MD

Aparna Sundaram, MD

University of California,
San Francisco

Innovation Award

In people suffering from asthma, the airways are severely narrowed because the smooth muscles which line the airways, hyperconstrict, reducing airflow and making it difficult to breathe. However, it is not completely understood how the smooth muscle is attached to the airways, and how they work together in asthma.

Dr. Sundaram’s group has shown that individual smooth muscle cells 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 can lead to new therapies that can block this action, and thus prevent airway narrowing in asthma.

Alexandra C. Racanelli, MD, PhD

Alexandra C. Racanelli, MD, PhD

Joan & Sanford I. Weill Medical College of Cornell University

Catalyst Award

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is the third leading cause of death worldwide, affecting over 250 million people worldwide with cases continuing to rise. Current therapies only treat symptoms but cannot stop the progression of COPD. One potential target to stop the progression of COPD might be in the blood vessels of the lung but currently, little is known about the role of the blood vessels in the progression 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 the eventual development of COPD.

These findings will lead to new therapies targeting the impairment in blood vessels that cause COPD, and will improve the lives of millions of patients.

Moumita Ghosh, PhD

University of Colorado Denver

Lung Cancer Discovery Award

When it comes to treatment of lung cancer, time is of the essence. 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 coincided 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. They plan to use lung tissues from patients with early-stage lung cancer to identify important factors that influence progenitor function.

These findings will lead to new methods of early lung cancer detection, and may also lead to new targets to enhance progenitor function and slow or stop the formation of cancer.

Your gift supports lifesaving research

Please donate today so this vital research can continue. Together, we can create a world free of lung disease.

Page last updated: February 13, 2023

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