USF Receives $1M Donation for Research to Prevent Lung Scarring

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by Joana Carvalho, PhD |

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The University of South Florida (USF) received a $1 million donation to fund research focused on finding ways to detect and prevent lung tissue scarring in people with pulmonary fibrosis (PF).

“This generous gift will help the University of South Florida advance innovative testing and treatment of the toughest cases of devastating lung conditions, ultimately saving lives,” Steve Currall, president of USF, said in a university press release.

The donation was made by Timothy Ubben, a philanthropist who founded Lincoln Capital Management, a successful Chicago-based investment firm. Since his retirement in 1999, Ubben has devoted his time and resources to aiding nonprofits and educational organizations.

“I have been discouraged in the lack of progress in alleviating pulmonary fibrosis in patients,” Ubben said. “This funding will support research to better understand and find assistance in the fight against this disease.”

The funds will be used to support research led by Jose D. Herazo-Maya, MD, USF Health’s newly appointed associate chief of pulmonary, critical care, and sleep medicine. Herazo-Maya is Ubben’s doctor.

Before stepping into his position at USF, Herazo-Maya discovered, along with colleagues at Yale, a blood gene signature that could be used to predict mortality in patients with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF). He is now leading a team at USF Health, working on the development of a special blood test to assess the activity of certain genes as a way of identifying patients who are at risk of seeing their disease worsen.

The goal is to treat these individuals before that happens.

“Certain patients with lung scarring can live well for years while others develop disease exacerbations [flare-ups] and die quickly from the disease,” Herazo-Maya said. “Tim [Ubben] is intellectually curious and has good knowledge about medical research and clinical trials — I enjoy talking with him about science and ways to improve disease [treatments].”

Herazo-Maya already has started using Ubben’s gift to create the Ubben Family Pulmonary Research Laboratory at USF. The lab will be located in the new space of USF’s Health Heart Institute in downtown Tampa, Fla. A team of physicians, scientists, and biostatisticians is being assembled to work in the new lab.

“Mr. Ubben’s generous gift is providing hope and momentum in the fight against pulmonary disease,” said Jay Stroman, USF Foundation CEO. “The potential benefit this donor-funded research could have on health care systems everywhere is astounding.”

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