CF Infection Research Remains a High Priority

I am excited that the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation has surpassed $100 million in research funding through its Infection Research Initiative and that it promises to continue to support infection research at the same rate as the past three years. I am hopeful that the patient community will hear more about funding updates for new infection research as we move forward.

| 5 min read
Gabriella-Balasa-Headshot
Gabriella Balasa
Ella sitting at a desk looking at her laptop.

As a member of the steering committee for the Infection Research Initiative, I am very excited about reaching the goal of investing at least $100 million into infection research. 

The Infection Research Initiative is a robust, comprehensive program to improve our knowledge of cystic fibrosis-related infections, develop safe and effective treatments, and improve current treatments for people with CF. The committee – composed of Cystic Fibrosis Foundation staff, doctors, researchers from around the country, and four CF community members -- met in December 2021 for its annual discussion of what kinds of research have been funded in the last year and what the clinicians and patient community see as the biggest future priorities in infection. 

As we approached the halfway mark of the Initiative, the steering committee took the opportunity to obtain feedback from the CF community on how well we have communicated the Foundation’s infection portfolio, the initiative’s research priorities and areas of focus, and the future of the initiative beyond 2023. To do this, the steering committee conducted a survey through Community Voice last year. An overwhelming majority of respondents said that although infections have changed for many due to Trikafta®, there is still as great a need for focusing on the development of novel therapies to treat infections. We cannot forget about the percentage of the population who do not benefit from modulators either due to mutation or side effects, as well as those with advanced lung disease for whom infections remain a daily challenge. I, for one, fall into this latter category. 

The community as a whole is eager to advance our understanding of new research coming down the pipeline from phage therapy to new genetic therapies. 

For this reason, we gleaned from this survey that it is a high priority to disseminate information from the Foundation about funding updates on new infection research. We want to be given more information about how far along in research development various treatments are – by what novel mechanisms are these treatments targeting bacteria and fungi to minimize or avoid antibiotic resistance? And what areas of focus are they targeting? For example, are there new methods on the horizon for determining biomarkers of an exacerbation before it even begins?  

Here are a few of these updates:

  • In the past two years, the Foundation has funded several studies into phage therapy, the use of specialized viruses to treat an infection.
  • To address the increasing problem of antibiotic resistance, the Foundation is supporting the development of new treatments to tackle difficult-to-treat bacteria. Since the initiative began, the Foundation has funded six studies investigating treatments for Pseudomonas, five studies for nontuberculous mycobacteria (NTM), and two studies for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).
  • Nontraditional ways to address these and other difficult-to-treat bacteria are also being explored, including the use of nitric oxide and IV gallium to treat NTM infections. Nitric oxide, a gas molecule produced by the body, plays a key role in the immune system. Researchers believe that increasing levels of nitric oxide in the body could help eliminate bacteria by breaking down biofilms, and increase lung function in people with CF. Gallium, a molecule nearly identical to iron that disrupts iron-dependent biological processes of bacteria, has already been approved for IV use for people with other illnesses. 
  • The Foundation is funding research into new methods for determining biomarkers of an exacerbation before it begins.

I am excited to hear that the Infection Research Initiative will continue to support infection research at the same pace as it has in the last three years. Until we have gene therapies that work with great success for everyone in our community, infection research will be a high priority. As someone who desperately needs new therapeutic options to treat the Pseudomonas infections in my lungs – but who has also been able to benefit from the use of phage therapy – I am very hopeful for the future of new therapeutics and the advancement of our researchers’ understanding of the fascinating yet perilous organisms that colonize our bodies.  

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Ella is a person with cystic fibrosis, a writer, a patient advocate. Having a science education and having worked in a microbiology lab, she has utilized her knowledge and health experiences in her involvement serving on various research committees -- including the CF Foundation Infection Research Steering Committee and Protocol Review Committee. She was a co-chair for the inaugural CF virtual research conference, ResearchCon, and was named the 2019 CF Ambassador for the Virginia Chapter. She is an advocate for the development of novel therapies for the treatment of antibiotic-resistant infections and speaks publicly at conferences, meetings, and to companies about the value of patient perspective in healthcare. Through her passion for writing, she distills clinical information for patient communities, and shares about the hardships yet triumphs that comes with living with a chronic illness. She aims to affect the healthcare landscape by raising awareness of rare diseases, promoting self-advocacy to patients, and providing valuable insights to organizations. When she is not taking care of her health, she enjoys spending time with friends and traveling as much as she is physically able. Learn more about her work at on her website and follow her life experiences on her Instagram.

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This site contains general information about cystic fibrosis, as well as personal insight from the CF community. Opinions and experiences shared by members of our community, including but not limited to people with CF and their families, belong solely to the blog post author and do not represent those of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, unless explicitly stated. In addition, the site is not intended as a substitute for treatment advice from a medical professional. Consult your doctor before making any changes to your treatment.