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UI Lung Researcher Receives NIH Director's New Innovator Award

Asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and cystic fibrosis (CF) are lung diseases, which together affect nearly 50 million Americans and are associated with over $45 billion in annual health care costs.

One characteristic that links these separate conditions is an overproduction of mucus in the airways. While mucus normally plays a critical role in keeping airways clean and free of bacteria, viruses, and other inhaled toxins through a process called mucociliary clearance, excess mucus production in these diseases is associated with numerous problems, including difficulty breathing, inflammation, and infection.

David Stoltz, MD, PhD, assistant professor of internal medicine at the UI Carver College of Medicine, has received a five-year, $1.5 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to study the role of mucus production in models of airway disease.

In particular, Stoltz will focus on goblet cells -- specialized airway cells that are responsible for mucus production and are more plentiful in airways affected by asthma, COPD, and CF. His studies will investigate how goblet cells and mucus help maintain lung health, and their role in responding to airway insults and during disease.

Stoltz believes the findings may lead to a better understanding of biological mechanisms that cause lung disease, and may drive development of new therapies for many human airway diseases.

The grant, known as the NIH Director's New Innovator Award, was established in 2007 and aims to support creative new investigators who propose innovative projects with the potential for unusually high impact.

Stoltz, who also is a UI assistant professor of biomedical engineering, was one of 51 early-career scientists across the country to receive a 2012 NIH Director's New Innovator Award. He is the second UI faculty member to receive this award. To learn more about his research, visit http://www.int-med.uiowa.edu/Divisions/Pulmonary/Directory/DavidStoltz.html.

The New Innovator Award is one of three types of grants awarded through the High Risk High Reward program, which is supported by the NIH Common Fund. These grants support exceptionally high impact research programs that are broadly relevant to health and disease. For more information on the New Innovator Award program, visit http://commonfund.nih.gov/newinnovator/.