ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Dr. Steven Baker from Lovelace Respiratory Research Institute has been awarded funding to study how genes within influenza split and give rise to new variants. The research could help experts understand – and perhaps prevent – epidemics.

The research is being supported by the American Lung Association Research Institute. They have awarded over $13 million to 129 projects across the U.S.

“We are honored to welcome Dr. Steven Baker to the elite American Lung Association Research Institute and our efforts to fundamentally transform lung health here in New Mexico and across the nation,” Victoria Byrd, the development director and market lead for the American Lung Association in New Mexico, said in a press release. “Our research investment is key to unlocking solutions to alleviate the burden of lung disease. The Lung Association’s Awards and Grants Program promotes innovative research, collaboration, translation of discoveries and scientific exchange to transform today’s science into tomorrow’s solutions. Because when you can’t breathe, nothing else matters.”

The research could help experts better combat the possibility of the next pandemic. By increasing understanding of how viruses work, scientists can better stop dangerous ones before they wreak havoc.

“Re-emerging respiratory RNA viruses continue to shape global public health by causing seasonal epidemics and occasional pandemics. Our project with the ALA [the American Lung Association] aims to comprehend how influenza viral infection is impacted by host alternative RNA splicing, a process that nearly all genes undergo during their activation,” Baker said. “Understanding such hidden mechanisms within host genomes deployed that either fight or benefit viral infection can inform future therapeutic development.”