CF Foundation Awards Nearly $15 Million to Groups Researching Infections and CF

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by David Melamed, PhD |

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The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation (CFF) has awarded nearly $15 million to 33 organizations that are researching how to improve outcomes for cystic fibrosis (CF) patients who are battling infections.

The awards fall under the CFF’s Infection Research Initiative, a large-scale effort to provide $100 million in funding for research into CF and infections through 2023. Since launching the initiative in 2018, the CFF has awarded $58 million toward its goal.

“The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation is committed to advancing novel mechanisms to detect and treat chronic infections that affect people with CF — ultimately improving outcomes related to this serious and widespread manifestation of the disease,” Dara Riva, director of clinical research awards at the CFF, said in a press release.

“This funding will support a wide range of infection-related research with the potential to unlock new opportunities to address challenges people with CF face,” Riva said.

CF is a genetic condition that causes a buildup of mucus in the respiratory system, which creates an ideal environment for bacterial growth. As a result, CF patients often have persistent chest infections that may not respond well to antibiotic treatments, a symptom that can lead to long-term decline in lung condition and eventually death.

According to the CFF, more than 60% of younger CF patients have at least one microorganism infection, and this increases to 80% in older CF patients.

Furthermore, the chronic use of antibiotics has been linked to hearing loss and increased antibiotic resistance, leaving patients increasingly vulnerable to infection over time.

With these challenges in mind, the CFF is promoting research in infection to support patients with CF.

The newly funded projects fall under three broad categories: detection and diagnosis of infection, new approaches to fight antibiotic resistance, and addressing pathogens that are difficult to treat.

The detection of infectious agents can be difficult in CF patients because common detection methods rely on a sputum (saliva and mucus) sample, and many CF patients take medications called CFTR modulators to reduce mucus production, leaving them unable to provide sputum for analysis.

Three of the awarded research projects are centered around new diagnostic approaches that require less sputum and that can generate results more quickly. Two others aim to detect pathogens through either a blood or a urine sample.

To address bacterial resistance to antibiotics, three of the awarded research projects are focused on developing an alternative approach to treat bacterial infection based on phage therapy.

Phage therapy uses viruses, called bacteriophages, that specifically infect and destroy bacteria while not harming human cells.

One of these studies is researching bacteriophages to target antibiotic-resistant Pseudomonas bacteria, another is engineering bacteriophages to target a wide range of Burkholderia bacteria.

The third awarded group of phage therapy researchers is developing a library of bacteriophages to target each of the different strains of Burkholderia bacteria known.

Other projects awarded by the CFF are focusing on specific challenges faced by CF patients, including infection with nontuberculous mycobacteria, fungi, and multi-organism infections.

The CFF also haas established the SARS-CoV-2 and Cystic Fibrosis Research Award, which will provide funding to investigate underlying differences in the way patients with CF respond to the SARS-CoV-2 virus responsible for the COVID-19 pandemic.


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