UCLA Health has launched a $20 million fundraising initiative to create a new center for advanced lung disease at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.

To date, the initiative has secured $4.37 million for the Lung Health Research Accelerator Fund.

The fund will support the work of John Belperio, MD, and Joseph Lynch, III, MD, in the medical school’s division of pulmonary and critical care medicine. Belperio’s research is focused on identifying the causes of and potential treatments for transplant rejection and advanced lung diseases, including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, emphysema, idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, sarcoidosis and interstitial lung disease.

Because of the overlap among those conditions, discoveries related to one disease could help lead to advances in understanding and treating the others.

“Existing treatments for advanced lung diseases are unimpressive and leave patients with one option — lung transplantation,” Belperio, who holds the Guitiara Pierpoint Endowed Chair in Interstitial Pulmonary Fibrosis, says in a statement. “Unfortunately, transplantation is not a cure, with only half of lung transplant recipients surviving five years. 

“Our patients deserve better. 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.”

Belperio’s laboratory, which will soon move into a renovated space with new equipment provided by the fund, has made significant strides in combatting lung disease, which affects millions of people worldwide and is a leading cause of death.

Over the years, he and his team have explored the role of various proteins in transplant rejection, discovered a less invasive method for testing transplant patients with acute rejection, and published a guide to help other research centers create patient registries and collections of biological specimens for idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.