Patient Advocacy Group Supports Research for Both Diseases
WASHINGTON, Sept. 6, 2012 -- The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) is the leading national voluntary health agency (VHA) – or "patient advocacy group" – for millions of people with asthma and allergic diseases in the U.S. When AAFA was founded in 1953, fewer than 20 million Americans were afflicted, but today the prevalence among children and adults has more than tripled. Now over 22 million people have asthma and more than 50 million have allergic diseases of all types, including food allergies, drug allergies, nasal allergies and others.
Traditionally, patient groups like AAFA have played an important role providing information, education and support. But AAFA has also increasingly helped researchers through grant programs to support the search for causes, cures and better treatments. In fact, AAFA is the only asthma-allergy patient group that funds this type of research in both disease areas. Even in a slow economy with budgets tight, AAFA has continued research support.
"Bridge" Grants Keep Good Research Going
AAFA's Investigator Grant Program offers two-year grants. AAFA's Research Committee carefully selects scientists who have applied to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) RO1 Project Grant program, received high merit, but did not receive NIH funding due to limited budgets. Then, AAFA's "bridge" grants provide them with support to continue their work until they can re-apply for NIH funding in one or two years.
"There is not yet a cure for asthma and allergic diseases and AAFA is dedicated to supporting exceptional researchers," says Larry Schwartz, MD, Ph.D., Chair of the Division of Rheumatology, Allergy & Immunology at Virginia Commonwealth University and Co-Chair of AAFA's Research Committee. Three awardees have been granted $20,000 by AAFA this year, including:
- Magdalena M. Gorska, Ph.D., at National Jewish Health, studying the importance of the signaling protein Unc119 in Th2 responses in asthma.
- Pedro Avila, M.D., at Northwestern University, investigating dendritic cells in asthma exacerbations.
- Steven F. Ziegler, Ph.D., at the Benaroya Research Institute, looking into TSLP, RSV, and airway inflammation.
Fellowship Grants to Search for Causes
AAFA also funds a Fellowship Research Grant, designed to support scholars who show outstanding promise in the asthma and allergy field. Through this Fellowship AAFA hopes to encourage academic research careers in asthma and immunology. Awardees are usually scientists who have completed their first two years of Allergy/Immunology training, and who will be entering their first or second year of a junior faculty appointment in Allergy/Immunology. AAFA's $60,000 Fellowship for 2012 was recently awarded to:
- Suzanne Cassel, M.D., at the University of Iowa, investigating the link between the Tim-1 gene and development of asthma and allergic rhinitis in patients.
"AAFA's research program has made great strides over the years," states Phil Norman, M.D., a member emeritus of AAFA's national Board of Directors. "Our research program will continue to expand and diversify in future years thanks to contributions and donations from the individuals we serve," says Norman, "this is our pledge to help asthma and allergy patients have a life without limits one day."
For more information on AAFA's research mission visit www.aafa.org/research.