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Research Aimed at the Sickest COVID-19 Patients

Dr. William Zhang receives the American Thoracic Society/CSL Behring Research Award to study Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome.

Lungs and COVID virus

Almost all patients who die of COVID-19 die because of Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS), a life-threatening illness that inflames and injures the lungs, said Dr. Michelle Gong, of the American Thoracic Society. That makes the work being done by ARDS researchers both urgent and necessary.

To help advance the science, Dr. William Zhang, of Weill Cornell Medical Center, recently received the 2020-2021 American Thoracic Society (ATS)/CSL Behring Research Award in ARDS. The $50,000 grant will support Dr. Zhang’s research study, “Hyperferritinemia in COVID-19 ARDS:  Friend or Foe?”

Zhang will examine the role played by ferritin, a blood protein that contains iron. Researchers studying COVID-19 as it took over much of the globe have zeroed in on what the coronavirus does to the blood and blood vessels.

“With the COVID-19 pandemic, we are again reminded of the devastating impact of ARDS in public health,” said Gong, chair of the ATS Critical Care Assembly, in a news release about the grant.

So far, breakthrough medicines for treating COVID-19 have been more helpful for mildly ill patients. Studying ARDS could help the most seriously ill patients, including those on mechanical ventilators, she said.

“This partnership with CSL Behring brings an important opportunity to focus on improving survival and long-term function and outcomes in ARDS and in the sickest patients,” said Gong

What does ARDS do to the lungs?

ARDS injures tiny air sacs (alveoli) in the lungs and causes blood vessels to leak fluid. Filled with fluid, the lungs don’t function properly, breathing becomes difficult and oxygen cannot get into the body. COVID-19 is a newly reported cause of ARDS but researchers have identified more than 60 causes. They include inhaling harmful substances, pneumonia, pancreatitis, sepsis, trauma to the head, chest or other areas of the body, or near drowning.

“Supporting Dr. Zhang’s study is another example of the strength of CSL Behring’s ongoing partnership with ATS as we work together to fund promising research that has the potential to help patients impacted by serious respiratory diseases like ARDS,” said Lars Groenke, M.D., CSL Behring’s Vice President for R&D Respiratory. “As an organization that is driven by its promise to patients, CSL Behring looks forward to working with ATS as we continue to support emerging investigators through our partnership.”

The ATS and its Research Program are improving respiratory health worldwide by supporting young investigators in pulmonary, critical care, and sleep medicine. The ATS Research Program, established in 2004, bolsters new investigators as they strive to launch independent research careers dedicated to innovation in patient care. Since 2004, the Research Program has awarded $21.9 million in research grants to 321 investigators who have gone on to secure more than $491 million in federal funding.