The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) has awarded $10 million in first-year funding to establish a clinical research network called Childhood Asthma in Urban Settings (CAUSE). According to the agency, this nationwide network will conduct observational studies and clinical trials to improve understanding of asthma and develop treatment and prevention approaches tailored to children of low-income families living in urban communities. NIAID intends to provide approximately $70 million over seven years to support the CAUSE network.

This new initiative extends and expands NIAID’s long-standing efforts to better understand and reduce the disproportionate burden of asthma among children living in low-income urban environments. Since 1991, NIAID has sponsored a series of research programs conducted in urban areas where pediatric asthma is prevalent and severe. Among many accomplishments, NIAID-funded research found that exposure to cockroach allergen is a major risk factor for severe asthma in urban children and that programs to decrease exposures to cockroaches and other household allergens reduce children’s asthma symptoms and health care visits. Researchers also established that omalizumab, a drug that reduces immunoglobulin E, can prevent seasonal asthma attacks. In addition, scientists identified molecular pathways that evolve in the nasal passages of children with asthma who had colds that led to asthma attacks.  

CAUSE investigators will work together to improve understanding of the mechanisms that contribute to asthma development and severity and develop new strategies to mitigate the impact of the disease in populations of disadvantaged children and adolescents. In addition to this collaborative work, CAUSE clinical research centers located across the United States will conduct locally relevant clinical and translational studies. 

The CAUSE network comprises a leadership center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison led by principal investigators Daniel Jackson, M.D., and James Gern, M.D., and the following seven clinical research centers:

  • Boston Children’s Hospital. Principal investigators: Wanda Phipatanakul, M.D., and Talal Chatila, M.D.
  • Children’s National Research Institute, Washington, D.C. Principal investigator: Stephen Teach, M.D. 
  • Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. Principal investigator: Gurjit Khurana Hershey, M.D., Ph.D. 
  • Columbia University Health Sciences, New York. Principal investigator: Meyer Kattan, M.D. 
  • Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York. Principal investigators: Paula Busse, M.D.; Supinda Bunyavanich, M.D.; and Juan Wisnivesky, M.D. 
  • Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago. Principal investigators: Rajesh Kumar, M.D., and Jacqueline Pongracic, M.D. 
  • University of Colorado Denver. Principal investigator: Andrew Liu, M.D.