The fundraising effort — called the Lung Health Research Accelerator Fund — aims to generate a total $20 million for the creation of a new research center at UCLA’s David Geffen School of Medicine, focused on advanced lung diseases.
More specifically, the fund will support the work of John Belperio, MD, and Joseph Lynch III, MD, both part of the medical school’s division of pulmonary and critical care medicine. Their research seeks to identify the causes of advanced lung diseases, including sarcoidosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or COPD, emphysema, idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, and interstitial lung disease.
The two researchers also are trying to develop new treatment strategies for these diseases, and to better understand the causes of — and strategies to avoid — lung transplant rejection.
“Existing treatments for advanced lung diseases are unimpressive and leave patients with one option, lung transplantation. Unfortunately, transplantation is not a cure, with only half of lung transplant recipients surviving five years. Our patients deserve better,” Belperio said in a news story.
Research by Belperio and his colleagues has allowed a better understanding of lung disease and transplant rejection. Over the past decade, he and his team found that the growth of fungus in the airways can lead to transplant rejection. That led to the current recommendations to give antifungal medication to patients after they receive a lung transplant.
Nonetheless, better therapeutic approaches are needed, Belperio said.
“We need novel treatments that improve patients’ quality of life and ultimately support their survival. Our laboratory is committed to seeing this happen, and preliminary results are extremely promising,” he said.
The fundraising effort already has raised $4.37 million from the contributions of 12 donors in total, including three separate donations of $1 million each — from Michael and Linda Keston, William Pierpoint, and Jeffrey and Robin Raich. Each of these donors have a personal connection with the two doctors leading the research.
“After seeing multiple specialists who provided a grim prognosis, I was referred to Dr. Belperio and his team. They saved my life,” Raich said. “My giving is inspired not only by my immense gratitude but also by the knowledge that philanthropy has the power to transform care for these devastating lung diseases.”
The Raiches gave a philanthropic gift in 2012 to support Belperio’s research.