Public Release: 

HHS awards University of Wisconsin $55.8 million to fight asthma in inner-city children

NIH/National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

HHS Secretary Tommy G. Thompson today announced that the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) has awarded a six-year, $55.8 million contract to the University of Wisconsin at Madison. This contract will establish a nationwide research network with the goal of reducing the severity of asthma and preventing the disease in inner-city children, a group that suffers disproportionately from asthma.

"Inadequate access to health care and the best available asthma treatments is one of the reasons for higher rates of asthma and asthma-related deaths in inner-city children," said Secretary Thompson. "The new contract reflects the Department's continuing commitment to addressing this health disparity."

The primary aim of this research network, termed the Inner-City Asthma Consortium (ICAC), is to conduct clinical trials to evaluate the effectiveness of promising immune-based asthma treatments in inner-city children. The effectiveness of currently available asthma treatments may also be tested to make sure they are put to their best use in this population. Finally, the consortium will likely investigate possible genetic predispositions to asthma and the biological mechanisms underlying development of the disease.

The University of Wisconsin at Madison will function as the hub of this research network. Principal investigator and noted asthma researcher William Busse, M.D., and colleagues will coordinate the clinical trials, which will occur at eight sites across the country. The list of sites follows:

  • Boston University, Boston, Mass.
  • Children's Memorial Hospital, Chicago, Ill.
  • Howard University, Washington, D.C.
  • Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Md.
  • Mt. Sinai Medical Center, New York, N.Y.
  • National Jewish Medical Center, Denver, Colo.
  • University of Arizona, Tucson, Ariz.
  • University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas Texas

"The researchers and institutions in this network are the cream of the crop of asthma investigators in this country," said Anthony S. Fauci, NIAID director. "This program combines the skills of investigators experienced in working with inner-city children with asthma, the availability of a pediatric population that may benefit greatly from improved therapy, and the talents of many basic immunologists and clinical researchers."

An additional $14 million over seven years will go to Rho Federal Systems Division, Inc., in Chapel Hill, N.C. This group will collect and analyze the clinical trial data as well as assist with design of the trials and the training and monitoring of site personnel.

Many of the investigators and institutions in the consortium also participate in NIAID's National Cooperative Inner-City Asthma Studies (NCICAS). Launched in 1991 to combat asthma in inner-city children, this network has developed several successful so-called "interventions," public education and outreach methods that have proved to reduce the severity of asthma in inner-city children. Unlike NCICAS, whose goal is to develop new interventions, the new consortium aims to identify promising new asthma medicines through the conduct of clinical trials.

NIAID is a component of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). NIAID supports basic and applied research to prevent, diagnose, and treat infectious and immune-mediated illnesses, including HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases, illness from potential agents of bioterrorism, tuberculosis, malaria, autoimmune disorders, asthma and allergies.


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