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New Jefferson Researcher, Raymond Penn, PhD, Awarded Grant to Study New Therapies for Treatment of Asthma

August 23, 2013
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Raymond Penn, Ph.D., the new director of the Center for Translational Medicine and Director of Pulmonary Research in the newly established Jefferson-Jane and Leonard Korman Lung Center has been awarded a research grant from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute to identify new therapies for the treatment of asthma.

The highly-coveted Program Project Grant (PPG) will allow Dr. Penn and Jeffrey Benovic, PhD, Thomas Eakins Professor and Chairman of the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at Thomas Jefferson University, to continue their cutting edge research in G protein-coupled receptor (GCPR) biology and pharmacology to identify new therapies for the treatment of asthma. The multi-project PPG features grants led by Drs. Penn, Benovic, and collaborators Reynold Panettieri, M.D., of the University of Pennsylvania, and Stephen Liggett, M.D., of the University of South Florida.

GPCRs are a family of "gatekeeper" protein receptors that sense molecules outside the cell and activate appropriate cellular responses. In asthma, abnormal airway G protein-coupled receptor (GPCR) function can cause excessive airway smooth muscle (ASM) contraction as well as increased ASM mass, thus reducing airway size and limiting airflow.

Dr. Penn's research has demonstrated roles for multiple GPCRs in airway cell biology and physiology, advancing concepts in airway pharmacology and enabling the development of more effective drugs for the treatment of asthma and obstructive lung diseases.

"Obstructive lung disease, which includes asthma and emphysema, remains a common respiratory disorder for which there is an unmet need and is an area of intense translational research interest and new drug development," says Mani Kavuru, MD, Director of the Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine and the Korman Lung Center.

"Ray's research will advance our understanding and subsequent treatment of asthma and obstructive lung disease, and bring advanced care to those who need it most," says Gregory Kane, MD, the Jane and Leonard Korman Professor of Pulmonary Medicine and Interim Chair of the Department of Medicine at Jefferson.

Dr. Penn returns to Jefferson after overseeing airway biology and functional genomics research at Wake Forest University School of Medicine, Center for Human Genomics where he developed the Tinsley R. Harrison Translational Research Training Program as well as an NIH Roadmap course for facilitating cross-disciplinary research among investigators in Genetics, Biochemistry, and Imaging Sciences. He then became Professor of Medicine at the University of Maryland Baltimore (UMB) where he expanded GPCR biology research within the University's Cardiopulmonary Genomics Program.

Prior to this, he helped establish a research program at Jefferson which fused his interests in lung physiology and GPCR biology as member of the Division of Critical Care, Pulmonary, Allergic & Immunologic Diseases, becoming faculty in 1995 and Associate Professor in 2002.

In addition, Dr. Penn has also played pivotal roles in developing educational and research initiatives into translational research at the institutional, national, and international level throughout his career.

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