Airway Biology and Disease Branch

The Airway Biology and Disease Branch supports research and research training in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, asthma, cystic fibrosis, bronchiolitis, lung imaging, and airway function in health and disease.

Our Programs

Asthma Program

The Asthma Program supports research related to asthma, including the role of immunologic and nonimmunologic events and inflammation in the pathogenesis of asthma. Research focuses on inflammatory cells, mediators of inflammation (cytokines), and adhesion molecules; the genetics of asthma and atopy; airway remodeling and repair in asthma; immune development in young children who later develop asthma; the mechanisms of severe asthma; and differences in pathobiology among groups of asthma patients who respond differently to particular therapies. The program also supports research on the clinical management of asthma in adults and children, including the development of more precise, or individualized, treatment approaches. Other activities include health education research, demonstration and education projects on asthma management, and reducing health disparities in asthma outcomes. View funding information for the Asthma Program.

Contact: Patricia Noel, Ph.D., Program Director,


Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease/Environment Program

The Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease/Environment Program supports research on chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and other diseases of the lung related to smoking or environmental exposures. Research areas focus on the management of COPD and the pathogenic mechanisms of the development and progression of COPD. The program is particularly interested in mechanisms of injury and repair in the lung, pathways involved in the regulation of airway mucous secretion, genetic determinants of lung disease, gene therapeutic approaches to treat lung disease, and the properties and health effects of air pollution, including determinants of individual susceptibility to pollution. Research also includes the pathogenesis of emphysema, lung disease associated with alpha-1-antitrypsin deficiency, and lung effects of exposure to nicotine and e-cigarettes. Clinical trials are testing a variety of existing and novel therapies. Applied studies are developing new methods of lung imaging by computed x-ray tomography or magnetic resonance imaging and are testing their ability to provide a better characterization of changes that occur in a lung with disease. A growing area of interest is health education research and demonstration and education projects on disease management. View funding information for the Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease/Environment Program.

Contact: Antonello Punturieri, M.D., Ph.D., Program Director,

Contact: Lisa Postow, Ph.D., Program Director,


Cystic Fibrosis Program

The Cystic Fibrosis Program supports research on the function of the cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR) and on how CFTR dysfunction causes lung disease. Research focuses on airway epithelial ion transport, airway surface liquids, animal and cellular models for cystic fibrosis, signaling pathways in airway cells, regulation of mucin expression and secretion, mucociliary clearance of inhaled particles, mechanisms underlying the infectious and inflammatory aspects of cystic fibrosis lung disease, and development of treatments, including gene-editing approaches. View funding information for the Cystic Fibrosis Program.


Digital Health and Informatics Technologies Program

The Digital Health and Informatics Technologies Program supports research on the development and utilization of specialized devices and technologies in pulmonary medicine, critical care, and sleep medicine. Specific research areas include investigations of spirometry, bronchoscopy, computerized tomography imaging, ventilatory and monitoring devices, sleep disorder diagnosis and treatment technology, and pulmonary telehealth/telemonitoring tools. The program also aims to promote technologically intensive research areas, including biomarker analyses, omics panels, and artificial intelligence/machine learning studies. View funding information for the Digital Health and Informatics Technologies Program.


Genetics, Genomics, and Advanced Technologies Program

The Genetics, Genomics, and Advanced Technologies Program supports and coordinates research on innovative genetics, genomics, and biotechnology programs to advance discovery of lung disease risk, mechanisms of lung disease, and appropriate treatment strategies. Areas of research include: Whole-genome sequencing (WGS), pharmacogenetics, transcriptomics, proteomics, metabolomics, systems biology, and the NHLBI Trans-Omics for Precision Medicine (TOPMed) Program. This program represents the Division on NHLBI-wide and NIH-wide efforts to develop and implement cutting edge genetic, genomic, and biotechnology research related to pulmonary diseases. View funding information for the Genetics, Genomics, and Advanced Technologies Program.

Contact: Weiniu Gan, Ph.D., Program Director,


Lung Cell Biology Program

The Lung Cell Biology Program supports and promotes cutting-edge experimental approaches to investigate lung cellular function and dysfunction in a wide range of conditions. Emphasis is currently being placed on cell types and phenotypes across the lifespan. This program is also seeking to capitalize on the latest advances in single cell omics and data science to better understand cellular functions in the normal lung (progenitor cell differentiation, proteostasis, mitochondrial function, cytoskeletal function, etc.) and to determine how specific functions of lung cells are altered in particular pulmonary diseases. View funding information for the Lung Cell Biology Program.

Contact: Jining Lu, Ph.D., Program Director,


Training and Women's Health Program

This program provides assistance and support to scientists at all stages of their career, to ensure the development and retention of a strong biomedical research workforce engaged in pulmonary critical care and sleep medicine. Its activities include the management and oversight of scientists participating in NIH-wide training programs, ranging from the pre-baccalaureate level to senior investigators, as well as the development of special programs, events and initiatives that foster and ensure the continuity of a strong, innovative, interdisciplinary and diverse pulmonary critical care and sleep science workforce. View funding information for the NHLBI’s training programs.

Contact: Marquitta White, Ph.D., Program Director,