Cystic Fibrosis Foundation Grants $1.8 million to Expand the Atlanta CF Research and Development Program

Daniela Semedo, PhD avatar

by Daniela Semedo, PhD |

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Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, Emory University, and Georgia Tech were recently awarded a grant by The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation to expand the Atlanta CF Research and Development Program (CF@LANTA RDP Program).

The four-year grant worth $1.8 million will enable the collaborating institutions to expand their current cystic fibrosis research projects and translate the studies’ results to therapies and treatments for patients.

In 1981, the first grant awarded by the CFF RDP was given to the University of Alabama at Birmingham. An RDP grant is a marker of institutional excellence, and all of the leading CF research centers throughout the country have received funding from the CFF.

“We have been working to build infrastructure funding for the CF program for many years,” said Nael McCarty, PhD, Marcus Professor of Cystic Fibrosis at Emory University School of Medicine and principal investigator of the grant. “The RDP mechanism will enable us to leverage the investments already made by Emory and Children’s into a comprehensive CF research center.”

Emory jointly manages the second largest CF population in the U.S. with Children’s Healthcare. The aim the RDP Program is to foster interdisciplinary research into CF’s biological mechanisms and translate this knowledge into effective treatments for CF patients. The initial work will involve about 660 CF patients receiving clinical care within the center’s clinical program.

“This is a very important success for Atlanta’s CF research and clinical community,” said McCarty. “Being recognized by the CF Foundation reflects years of effort to improve the quality of our long-standing clinical program, the major advances we have made since 2007 in building a world-class research team and doing important science, and our establishment of innovative educational programs that will ensure that this progress continues. We are very grateful for the institutional support and the support from our local community that has enabled us to establish and improve our program.”

“The RDP funding also will enable submission of more high-level and programmatic grant proposals to the National Institutes of Health. In addition, having an infrastructure grant such as the RDP will help us continue to draw new investigators from all around Atlanta into the CF research effort. The new knowledge that will come out of our team’s work will lead to improved therapies for our patients,” McCarty said in the news release.

A team of CF experts, engineers and physician-scientists will use advanced methods to examine patients, clinical samples, and animal models of CF/CFRD (cystic fibrosis-related diabetes) for the identification of airway function changes related with CF progression. The team will also test potential new treatments for the disease.

The program’s theme is “The Systems Ecology of the CF Lung.”

According to McCarty, the RDP grant will allow the research team to investigate the complex CF lung environment by looking at each constituent of CF as a part of a “community.”

The researchers will use the principles of community ecology and systems biology to characterize the modifications that occur in each CF cell that build up the community, which will enable researchers of identify CF lung changes related to the disease progression and also the development of diabetes related to CF.

Since CF is a multi-organ disease it is a key candidate for a systems approach to research, which will help the investigators enhance their understanding of how the components of the community interrelate and also to identify new treatments.