$15 Million Grant Will Support Pulmonary Clinical Trials Program

Issue Date: 
October 12, 2015

Investigators at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health and School of Medicine will lead a $15 million federal initiative aimed at developing new treatments for breathing disorders. 

Stephen Wisniewski

Specifically, Pitt investigators will manage national clinical trials in an initiative known as the Pulmonary Trials Cooperative. The researchers will carry out multiple clinical studies on a variety of chronic lung conditions, including interstitial lung disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, pulmonary hypertension, sarcoidosis, and obstructive sleep apnea.

The five-year grant is funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), part of the National Institutes of Health.

“The Pulmonary Trials Cooperative program brings together expertise in lung disease research and treatment across the nation in one single, dynamic enterprise,” said Tony Punturieri, program officer in the Division of Lung Diseases at NHLBI. “This novel structure should facilitate efforts to get tested clinical care to patients in dire need of new treatments across a broad spectrum of lung diseases.”

Chronic lung diseases are some of the most common medical conditions in the world, with more than 15 million people in the U.S. suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) alone, a condition that is the third-leading cause of death nationwide, according to the American Lung Association.

Frank Sciurba

The initiative will be led by Stephen Wisniewski, an epidemiology professor in Pitt Public Health, and Frank Sciurba, director of Pitt’s Emphysema COPD Research Center in the School of Medicine.

“Across the country, multiple clinical trials will be in operation to address the urgent need for new treatments and to test existing treatments for people with chronic lung conditions, all managed under one program,” said Wisniewski, who is also Pitt’s associate vice provost for planning. “This will create a massive amount of data that will require diligent coordination and collaboration among trial sites, which we at Pitt have extensive experience facilitating.”

“Investigators in our pulmonary division have offered leadership in many clinical trials over the years and have successfully translated the latest scientific findings into improved patient care,” said Sciurba, who is also an associate professor in Pitt’s School of Medicine. 

The Pulmonary Trial Cooperative has letters of support from more than 100 clinical research programs nationwide with registries totaling 72,000 people.