As the heart of the pulmonary hypertension (PH) community, PHA is committed to providing support, education and empowerment programs to patients, caregivers, families and health care professionals. Another, equally important PHA priority is to invest in innovative research and young investigators, who will one day lead the field in finding a cure for PH.

In our pursuit of this goal, PHA has committed nearly $18 million to basic and clinical research focused on PH. Funding for these programs has come from generous donors, many who have lost loved ones to the disease or have a child living with it. We have also amplified the impact of our grants through collaborative partnerships with the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) and the Foundation of the American Thoracic Society (ATS), which partner with us in identifying and selecting grant recipients.

PHA is pleased to recognize the following six researchers who are recipients of our most recent grants. These researchers are involved in all levels of PH research, including work that could lead to understanding causes of PH, new ways to screen the disease and advancing care for pediatric patients. On behalf of the entire PHA community, PHA thanks our many donors — whose generosity fuels PH research — as we congratulate our 2017 grantees.

PAH/American Thoracic Society (ATS) Research Fellowship in Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension (PAH)

Farbod Rahaghi, MD, PhD, received the PHA/American Thoracic Society (ATS) Research Fellowship in PAH, a two-year, $80,000 award that supports a young faculty-level investigator. His research could lead to new PH screening techniques for left-heart disease patients who have shortness of breath. Dr. Rahaghi is an Instructor in Medicine at Harvard School of Medicine and the Brigham and Women’s Hospital, part of the Pulmonary Hypertension Care Center (PHCC) network of PHA accredited centers. He’s exploring the possibility of creating a 3D reconstruction of the visible vessels on CT scans to detect the difference between patients with PAH and those with PH due to left heart disease. Dr. Rahaghi believes the new technique could spare patients who are unlikely to benefit from therapy from invasive procedures and help identify potentially treatable subtypes of left ventricular heart disease-related PH.

PHA/Robyn Barst Pediatric PH Research and Mentoring Awards

Sheila Krishnan, DO; Meghan Bernier, MD; and Rachel Hopper, MD have received Robyn Barst Pediatric PH Research and Mentoring Awards. These three, $50,000 awards provide one-year mentorship opportunities for each clinician researcher. Funding for two of these awards was provided through the generosity of these PHA named grants: Cordelia’s Pediatric PH Research and Mentoring Grant and Christen White Cranford Pediatric PH Research and Mentoring Grant.

Using a unique rodent model, Dr. Krishnan, a Fellow in Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine at Indiana University in Indianapolis, Indiana, will explore the role of genetic modifications of embryos exposed to oxygen deficiency and their ability to adapt post birth to high altitude PH. The hope is that this understanding will lead to new treatment strategies for treating PH patients in both high and low altitudes whose PH resulted from congestive heart failure, chronic obstructive lung disease and obstructive sleep apnea.

Dr. Bernier is in the Science of Clinical Investigation Training Program, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, Maryland. Her research will explore how inflammation triggered by LDL cholesterol interacts with a special receptor on the lining of the blood vessel worsens PH by leading to fibrosis and overgrowth of muscle cells and preventing relaxation of blood vessels in the lung. She believes her work could offer promise for the development of new and novel PH drug therapies.

Dr. Rachel Hopper is Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania and Associate Director, Pulmonary Hypertension Program, Division of Cardiology, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Her work looks at PH that results from congenital diaphragmatic hernia (CDH), a birth defect affecting about one in 3,000 infants. Her study could improve understanding of PH in CDH and thereby improve ways to predict and treat this form of pediatric PH.

PHA Proof of Concept Award

Kazuyo Kegan, PhD has received PHA’s Proof of Concept award, a one-year, $40,0000 grant supporting new exploratory and developmental-stage research with the potential to lead to advances in the scientific understanding of PH. Dr. Kegan’s research looks at the association between PH and insulin resistance. She hopes to better understand how critical molecules in insulin resistance dysfunctionally interact to lead to some forms of PH. The goal of her work is to develop a new therapeutic approach for restoring this function.

PHA/National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) K08/K23 Supplemental Award

John Huetsch, MD has received the PHA/NHLBI K08/K23 Supplemental Award. The five-year, $312,500 award provides supplemental funding to an individual who receives an NHLBI Mentored Clinical Scientist Development Award (K08) or a Mentored Patient-Oriented Research Career Development Award (K23) for research on PH. Dr. Huetsch is an Instructor of Medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Using a combination of rat models and human donor cells, he will examine how changes in cellular behavior lead to pathologic PH. He hopes his work will provide insights that lead to therapies that improve blood vessel structure and function.

The Aldrighetti Research Award for Young Investigators

Olivier Boucherat, PhD has received the first Aldrighetti Research Award for Young Investigators, a two-year $80,000 grant established with sponsorship from Actelion Pharmaceuticals US, Inc. as a tribute to Rino Aldrighetti, PHA’s first chief executive officer, who retired in 2016. The Aldrighetti Research Award for Young Investigators’ two-year, $80,000 grant, which PHA will award annually through 2021, supports the careers of young investigators who are likely to make a strong and sustained impact in PAH research. Dr. Boucherat will use his two-year, $80,000 award to further his research into how certain proteins affect the growth of cells common in embryonic development of some forms of PH.

Special Thanks

Families and friends, who through their donations for PHA research and programs, honor loved ones who are living with or who have lost their lives to PH are an important part of the fabric of our community. PHA extends our gratitude and heartfelt thanks to everyone who believes in and supports our mission.

If you would like to learn more about our research and tribute gift programs or have other questions or concerns, please feel free to email me at BradWongPHA@PHAssociation.org.