University of Arizona College of Medicine – Phoenix receives $3 million NIH grant for lung disease in infants

The University of Arizona College of Medicine – Phoenix announced Feb. 14 it had received a $3 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to develop new treatment methods for lung disease in premature infants.

Dr. Vladimir Kalinichenko, director of the Phoenix Children’s Research Institute at the UArizona College of Medicine – Phoenix, was awarded the grant from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. Kalinichenko’s 20-year career has centered around improving health outcomes for premature infants with respiratory conditions, according to the College of Medicine – Phoenix.

“Medical advancements mean we can save babies at earlier gestational ages, but that means at times they’re born before their lungs are fully developed, which comes with severe complications,” Dr. Kalinichenko, who joined the College of Medicine – Phoenix in 2023, said. “This new funding allows us to explore new drugs, signaling mechanisms and targeted drug delivery systems, which can be used to develop innovative approaches for treatment of serious neonatal lung diseases.”

Among the most severe complications for premature infants, bronchopulmonary dysplasia, or BPD, is a form of chronic lung disease that damages the lungs and airways, leading to difficulties in breathing due to low oxygenation rates in alveoli. The NHLBI grant will support the development of innovative treatments for BPD using gene therapy with a focus on nanoparticle-based deliveries that accelerate blood vessel formation. Research will also concentrate on cell therapy, particularly transplanting endothelial progenitor cells which line and protect blood vessels. For Dr. Kalinichenko and his team, the goal is to diversify approaches for treatments, especially in delivering therapeutic agents into premature lungs with high efficiency and precision.

The Phoenix Children’s Research Institute at the University of Arizona College of Medicine – Phoenix launched in May 2023, formalizing a longstanding research collaboration between the health system and the UArizona College of Medicine – Phoenix. The Research Institute includes more than 700 active studies, 640 research investigators and 90 research staff members including research scientists, associates, biostatisticians, pharmacists, nurses and coordinators. Scientists engage in research across multiple clinical disciplines including cancer, neurology, cardiology, pulmonology and more.

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