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Monica Kraft, MD, of the University of Arizona Named Arizona Bioscience Researcher of the Year

CHANDLER, Ariz.–()–The Arizona Bioindustry Association (AZBio) today announced that Monica Kraft, MD, professor and chair of the Department of Medicine and The Robert and Irene Flinn Endowed Chair of Medicine at the University of Arizona College of Medicine – Tucson, and deputy director of the UA Health Sciences Asthma and Airway Disease Research Center, will be honored as the Arizona Bioscience Researcher of the Year for her work on precision medicine therapies to treat severe asthma.

When every breath is an effort

More than 25 million Americans have asthma. This includes 7.7 percent of adults and 8.4 percent of children according to 2018 data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

A chronic disease involving the bronchial tubes that carry air in and out of the lungs, asthma makes breathing difficult. Symptoms may include wheezing, coughing, chest tightness and trouble breathing – especially early in the morning or at night. Asthma accounts for 9.8 million doctor’s office visits, 188,968 discharges from hospital inpatient care and 1.8 million emergency department visits each year. Asthma in Arizona is among the highest of any state in the nation, having exceeded the national average almost every year recorded.

Making Breathing Easier

Dr. Kraft is an internationally renowned physician-scientist who specializes in translational asthma research. She focuses her work on precision medicine therapies to treat severe asthma. Her research has been funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the American Lung Association for nearly 25 years. As a principal investigator, she currently is in the third year of a 5-year, $7.02 million grant from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, an NIH unit, to study “Dysfunction of Innate Immunity in Asthma,” and in the first year of a 6-year, $2.42 million grant from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, another NIH unit, for participation in the PrecISE Network, a national research network that evaluates precision medicine approaches for the treatment of severe asthma. She also is principal investigator on an Arizona Biomedical Research Commission grant and co-principal investigator with Lynn Gerald, PhD, MSPH, as the UA is a site for the American Lung Association Clinical Research Centers to evaluate new treatments for asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Dr. Kraft has more than 175 publications in the areas of asthma and COPD, including the role of infection in asthma, innate immune mechanisms in airway disease, the role of the distal lung in asthma, mechanisms of airway remodeling and evaluation of novel treatments for asthma and COPD. Her work has appeared in such prestigious publications as the New England Journal of Medicine, Journal of the American Medical Association, The Lancet, American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, and Chest. In 2018, Dr. Kraft was named to the NIH National Heart, Lung, and Blood Advisory Council. Additionally, she has received many honors — including selection as a Parker B. Francis Foundation Fellow (1994) and as a recipient of a Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (2000), and an American Thoracic Society (ATS) Distinguished Achievement Award (2018) and ATS Elizabeth Rich Award (2019) in recognition of leadership and mentorship. She also has been elected as a Fellow to the ATS; American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology; American College of Physicians; American College of Chest Physicians, and European Respiratory Society. Lastly, she led the ATS as president in 2012-13.

With colleague Julie Ledford, PhD, Dr. Kraft filed a patent application in 2016 for “Peptides for the Treatment of Asthma, Lung Diseases.” This therapeutic technology is the development of both a series of peptides related to surfactant protein-A (SP-A) and a treatment method for asthma and other lung diseases. In February 2019, the UA College of Medicine – Tucson hosted a Shark Tank-style competition with six teams going head-to-head for a $10,000 prize. The “sharks” ultimately invested in Drs. Kraft and Ledford for their pitch on a new, inhaled therapeutic for treatment of asthma and potentially even COPD, cystic fibrosis and pneumonia. The team will use the $10,000 to work with a medicinal chemist to continue drug development.

“Dr. Kraft’s work is an excellent example of the value created through the combination of scientific and clinical research,” said Joan Koerber-Walker, president and CEO of AZBio. “Breathing disorders affect people of every age and her work in developing new treatments for asthma has the potential to make life better for millions of adults and children affected by this disease.”

For her commitment to pushing the frontiers of science for the betterment of people in Arizona and around the world, Monica Kraft, MD, is the 2019 Arizona Bioscience Researcher of the Year.

About the AZBio Awards

A key component of Arizona Bioscience Week, The AZBio Awards & Life Science Fiesta brings together Arizona’s life science and leadership community with visitors from around the country to celebrate life-science innovation and innovators. The AZBio Awards takes place on the evening of Oct. 2, 2019, at the Phoenix Convention Center. Highlights of the evening will include honoring the Honorable Jane Dee Hull, 20th governor of the State of Arizona, with the AZBio Pioneer Award for Lifetime Achievement and a celebration of the achievements of leading researchers, educators, and innovator companies. The Life Science Fiesta following the award ceremony features a Student Discovery Zone that showcases the work of fifty students from Arizona high schools, community colleges and universities along with exhibits featuring Arizona companies and patient advocacy organizations.

Arizona Bioscience Week, including the AZBio Awards & Life Science Fiesta, is presented by AZBio and the Arizona Commerce Authority.

For more information about the 2019 AZBio Awards, visit azbioawards.com.

For more information about Arizona Bioscience Week, visit AZBio.org/AZBW2019.

About AZBio

For 16 years, the Arizona Bioindustry Association (AZBio) has supported life science innovation and life science innovators in Arizona. A key component in Arizona’s life science ecosystem, AZBio is the only statewide organization exclusively focused on Arizona’s bioscience industry. AZBio membership includes patient advocacy organizations, life science innovators, educators, healthcare partners and leading business organizations. AZBio is the statewide affiliate of the Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO) and works in partnership with AdvaMed, MDMA, and PhRMA to advance innovation and to ensure that the value delivered from life-changing and life-saving innovation benefits people in Arizona and around the world.

For more information visit www.AZBio.org and www.azbio.tv

Images available upon request.

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