Local funding helps land $6.2M in national grants

Seed money boosts asthma research

Academic medical centers benefit their patients and their communities in several ways, including conducting and supporting research that expands scientific knowledge and develops treatments for patients locally and nationally.

A group of researchers at The University of Vermont Medical Center has been focused on the treatment of asthma in patients with a body mass index (BMI) greater than 30. This chronic lung disease affects tens of millions of people in the United States, more than 50 percent of whom have a BMI over 30. The majority of those have severe asthma that doesn’t respond well to traditional medication.

One study will try to understand why early onset allergic asthma tends to be more severe in patients who suffer from obesity.


Trying to determine why this happens has earned Anne Dixon, MA, BM, BCh, director of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, not one but two rare RO1 grants from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), with combined funding of $6.2 million (only 14 percent to 15 percent of RO1 applications win funding).

The seed money for collection of data to support Dixon’s NIH applications came from grants from the Department of Medicine at the Larner College of Medicine, where she is a professor, and UVM Medical Group, the UVM Medical Center’s physician practice.

In one study, Dixon and colleagues including Professor of Medicine Jason Bates, PhD, DSc, are working with radiologists. Their team was the first to identify two types of asthma in this population: non-allergic late-onset asthma, which improves significantly after bariatric surgery; and allergic asthma, which saw improvement in symptoms after surgery, but no change in airway “twitchiness.”

The second study addresses allergic asthma, which looks quite different from the non-allergic variety, particularly in heavier patients. Dixon and Professor of Medicine Matthew Poynter, PhD, will try to understand why early onset allergic asthma tends to be more severe in patients who suffer from obesity, with the ultimate goal of developing therapies targeted specifically to these patients. The team will work with surgeons to follow patients with allergic asthma undergoing bariatric surgery.