Dr. Monica Kraft, department chair and professor of medicine at the UA College of Medicine—Tucson, and Dr. Julie Ledford, assistant professor of medicine, began doing asthma research while Ledford was still a postdoctoral fellow at Duke University. Collaboratively, they have found that those with a higher BMI lack an important protein for people struggling with asthma, called SP-A. SP-A helps to reduce the lungs’ response to environmental irritants, like pollution. In their collective research, they were able to deduce that obese individuals have higher levels of cytokines that activate the immune system and suppress SP-A, thus leaving them with lower levels of this important protein. Without SP-A, asthmatics are unable to fight pathogens, making them more susceptible to lung infections. Along with Tech Launch Arizona, Kraft and Ledford are working to translate their discoveries into a new inhaler therapy that will revolutionize treatments for those with airway diseases.