University of Colorado Denver, National Jewish Health, University of Pittsburgh, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Boston University in joint project

Researchers at five research centers have been awarded an $11 million, two-year grant from the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute as part of the NIH Recovery Act that will allow a team of national scientists to delve deeply into the biology of two fatal lung diseases for which there are few therapeutic options. The multi-center Lung Genomics Research Consortium (LGRC) will use advanced genetic and molecular tools to characterize and better understand chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and pulmonary fibrosis, then share its discoveries with researchers around the world in a web-accessible data warehouse.

Mark Geraci, MD, head of the division of Pulmonary Sciences and Critical Care Medicine at the University of Colorado Denver’s School of Medicine, is one of the five lead principal investigators on the project. “It’s like a ‘brain bank,’” says Geraci. “The idea is to fill it up with tissue that can be accessed by hundreds of NIH investigators,” he notes. “We want to standardize a comprehensive, genomic analysis of tissue, look for new markers for the disease and potentially develop new disease classifications.”

The impetus for the new consortium grows out of the already existing NHLBI-funded Lung Tissue Research Consortium (LTRC), which has collected blood and tissue samples from nearly 1,300 lung surgery patients, most with COPD or pulmonary fibrosis, since 2005. UCD is the “main clinical coordinating site” in the LTRC, which also includes National Jewish Health, the Mayo Clinic, University of Michigan Medical Center,and UPMC. The UC Denver team is headed by Geraci’s Pulmonary Sciences colleagues Carlyne Cool, MD, and Marvin Schwarz, MD. “We recruit patients constantly through our Cardiothoracic Surgery team,” including John Mitchell, MD, and Michael Weyant, MD, Geraci adds.

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is the fourth leading cause of death in the United States. The incidence of pulmonary fibrosis has doubled over the past decade, and now kills about 40,000 Americans each year. There are few effective treatments for either disease, and both diseases are fatal.

This project will be led by a team of principal investigators, including Geraci, at the University of Colorado Denver’s School of Medicine; David Schwartz, MD, at National Jewish Health; Natfali Kaminski, MD, and Frank Sciurba, MD, at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine; John Quackenbush, PhD, at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute; and Avrum Spira, MD, at Boston University School of Medicine.

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