ATS Foundation Research Program Funds Dynamic Four

February 1, 2013 at 12:00 am

The ATS Foundation Research Program and its partners are pleased to provide grant funding to four promising investigations in pulmonary hypertension and neuroendocrine cell hyperplasia of infancy (NEHI).

“It is a great time for pulmonary hypertension and NEHI research,” says ATS Scientific Advisory Committee Chair M. Safwan Badr, MD, MBA, who conducted a rigorous NIH-style review with committee members of all applications. “The funded scientists are exploring novel and exciting questions that have the potential to make a difference in the lives of our patients. Recent discoveries have enriched our understanding of the mechanisms of these diseases and are providing a road map toward the ultimate goal: cure.”

Since 2004, the ATS Foundation has awarded nearly $10 million in grants to 120 researchers investigating a wide spectrum of lung diseases, ranging from asthma and COPD to pulmonary fibrosis and alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency. Most awards support early career researchers. The program has also funded the career development of 26 pulmonary and critical care fellows. Grants range from $5,000 per year to $100,000 over a two-year period.

ATS Foundation/chILD Foundation/La Fundación Pequeños Pulmones Research Award

Robin Deterding, MD, University of Colorado Denver: “Novel Proteomic Profiles in Neuroendocrine Cell Hyperplasia of Infancy (NEHI)”
Amount: $35,000

NEHI is a disease of young children that delays growth and necessitates years of oxygen use. Before they are definitively diagnosed with NEHI, suspected patients undergo multiple expensive and risky diagnostic tests that include CT scans and lung biopsy.

“My team will develop an alternative and less invasive diagnostic tool to improve the safety and efficacy of NEHI diagnosis,” Dr. Deterding says. “We will also help identify novel biomarkers to better understand the cause of the disease and prognosis, which will allow us to answer important questions for the families related to disease course and risks for their children.”

Todd_KolbPulmonary Hypertension Association/Foundation of the American Thoracic Society Career Development Award

Todd Kolb, MD, PhD, Johns Hopkins University: “Regulation of Right Ventricular Angiogenesis in Hypoxic Pulmonary Hypertension by MIF”
Amount: $50,000

Pulmonary hypertension (PH) occurs when blood pressure in the lungs is abnormally high. PH increases stress on the heart’s right ventricle (RV), in some cases leading to right heart failure and death. Remodeling and growth (hypertrophy) of the RV allows the heart to adapt to this increased workload.

“Unfortunately, little is known about the molecular events that govern RV remodeling,” Dr. Kolb says. “My research aims to improve understanding of these molecular processes. In addition, this work may help physicians identify patients at increased risk for right heart failure and provide interventions that reduce this risk.”

Andrew Bryant, M.D., Pulmonary photo by: Susan UrmyPulmonary Hypertension Association/ATS Foundation Career Development Award

Andrew Bryant, MD, Vanderbilt University: “Hypoxia Inducible Factor Regulation of Secondary Pulmonary Hypertension”
Amount: $50,000

Chronic lung diseases such as COPD and idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) lead to severe shortness of breath and carry significant morbidity and mortality. In a significant percentage of individuals, their lung disease leads to the development of PH, or elevated pressure in the blood vessels in the lungs. “There are few effective and long-lasting treatments to offer PH patients with chronic lung disease, and prognosis for these patients is poor,” Dr. Bryant says. “My team has discovered a biological pathway by which patients with chronic lung disease develop secondary PH.”

In his current project, Dr. Bryant hopes to better understand the details of this pathway and to identify new therapeutic targets. The results of this project may inform the development of new drugs that interrupt the development of secondary PH in patients with chronic lung diseases.

Eric D. Austin, MD, M.S.C.I. Pulm Med Ped. nfPulmonary Hypertension Association/Pfizer Research Fellowship in Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension Grant/ATS Foundation

Eric Austin, MD, Vanderbilt University: “Integrative Genomic Approach to Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension”
Amount: $100,000

Patients with pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH) have abnormally high blood pressure in their lungs. PAH can cause shortness of breath or lightheadedness during even simple activities, as well as swollen ankles, dizziness, fatigue, and other features of heart failure. Familial PAH is a heritable variant of the disease, which is associated with mutations in the BMPR2 gene. However, most people with BMPR2 mutations never develop PAH.

“My research aims to better understand what factors further increase susceptibility to PAH among those with an underlying predisposition to develop the disease,” Dr. Austin says.

To address this question, Dr. Austin has built a team of physician-scientists and biomedical informatics experts to apply state-of-the-art genomic technologies and methods to advance understanding of the genetic pathways that contribute to the pathogenesis of PAH. This should in turn aid in the development of new therapies for this devastating disease.


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