Identified cause and progression of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)


Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, the University at Buffalo


Timothy Murphy, MD, and Sanjay Sethi, MD, professors of medicine and microbiology and immunology at University at Buffalo Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences


The discovery that COPD flare-ups are due to new strains of bacteria that COPD patients continuously acquire has led the two researchers to develop promising vaccine candidates for pathogens involved in the disease. Today they continue to lead the longest-running clinical investigation of COPD in the United States.


Previously, doctors thought that the life threatening flare-ups of COPD were caused by bacteria in a person’s lungs reaching a critical mass, causing increased shortness of breath and production of thick, airway-clogging mucous. The two UB scientists proved the bacterial-load theory wrong. In 2002, they published their findings in the New England Journal of Medicine in what is now considered a landmark paper in the field.