Biomarker of Poor Steroid Treatment Responders: Gurjit Khurana Hershey, MD, PhD

In 2016, the Adare Drug Repurposing and Optimization Innovation Fund selected Dr. Khurana Hershey, MD, PhD, and colleagues as recipients. Her laboratory previously identified a genetic basis for understanding why some children with asthma respond effectively to medicines that control underlying inflammation–and why other children do not. Based on these findings, they will evaluate an already approved FDA drug for use in pediatric asthma. They will develop a point-of-care, rapid and reliable clinical assay, optimize desired treatment goal concentrations by establishing normative ranges and prepare to repurpose the drug for indication in asthmatics.

The Study of Epithelial Genes and Allergic Inflammation: Gurjit Khurana Hershey, MD, PhD

Gurjit Khurana Hershey, MD, PhD, is the primary investigator of an ongoing NIH-funded Asthma and Allergic Diseases Cooperative Research Center (AADCRC) U19, currently in its 11th year. The Cincinnati center is one of only 11 centers in the United States, and in 2016, the grant received a five year renewal. This multi-project grant focuses on delineating the role of epithelial genes in allergic inflammation. The grant includes three integrated and synergistic projects focused on epithelial cell biology to study multiple end-organs involved in allergic responses (e.g. skin, lung, gut, and esophagus). These projects will provide novel insights into a key unanswered question in the allergy field: Why is allergic inflammation restricted to one tissue in some cases, while it progresses to involve additional tissues in other individuals? As a part of this project, we will recruit 500 toddlers with atopic dermatitis and follow them over five years in the Mechanisms of Progression of Atopic Dermatitis to Asthma (M-PAACH) cohort. This new cohort will be the first of its kind in the US, and only the second atopic dermatitis cohort worldwide. M-PAACH will enable us to better understand the pathogenesis of atopic dermatitis and asthma phenotypes including their natural history, and specifically the mechanisms of progression and persistence/remission.

Children's Studies Inner City Asthma: Gurjit Khurana Hershey, MD, PhD

Cincinnati Children’s is one of nine contracted clinical research sites funded to study the treatment and prevention of asthma in inner-city asthma populations by conducting several clinical trials and mechanistic studies in order to understand the immunopathogenesis of the disease and to evaluate and develop effective interventions tailored to inner-city populations. Dr. Gurjit Khurana Hershey, PhD, is the PI of the Inner City Asthma Consortium (ICAC) at the Cincinnati site. The goals of this study are: 1) improving asthma control; 2) improving asthma phenotyping using biomarkers; 3) developing allergen immunotherapy approaches for cockroach allergy; 4) designing and conducting mechanistic studies involving human subjects with the goal of elucidating the immunopathogenesis of asthma in the inner-city; 5) developing, validating and implementing basic science methodology to support the studies conducted under the above objectives. ICAC is the nation’s largest effort to study asthma in the inner city. To date, Cincinnati Children’s has participated in seven ICAC clinical trial studies, including three that are currently enrolling, and we look forward to participating in many more in the years to come.

Unraveling Ancestry and Environmental Exposure Interactions in Childhood Asthma

Dr. Tesfaye Mersha, PhD, awarded a 3.4 million dollar grant from the National Institutes of Health, will use this to study the relationship between ancestry and environmental exposure and how they play a role in childhood asthma. Specifically, this study, designed to uncover fundamental information about whether individual genetic ancestry and selected environmental exposure factors, as well as their interactions, can affect asthma risk and prediction in an African-American population. Despite advances in asthma care, the burden of asthma is disproportionately high amount minority children, in particular children of African descent (four times more likely to be hospitalized and seven times more likely to die from asthma than non-African Americans).