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USF receives $5 million gift for lung research

Philanthropist Timothy Ubben gives to an initiative headed by his doctor, Dr. Jose D. Herazo-Maya.
 
Sharon Ubben, Timothy Ubben and Dr. Jose Herazo Maya. Timothy, a patient of Herazo's, donated $6 million this year for lung research.
Sharon Ubben, Timothy Ubben and Dr. Jose Herazo Maya. Timothy, a patient of Herazo's, donated $6 million this year for lung research. [ Photo courtsey of University of South Florida). ]
Published Dec. 13, 2021|Updated Dec. 13, 2021

The University of South Florida announced a $5 million gift Monday from philanthropist Timothy Ubben to further fund research aimed at detecting and preventing severe lung scarring.

Ubben, founder of the investment firm Lincoln Capital Management, donated $1 million in February to support the research led by his doctor, Dr. Jose D. Herazo-Maya.

“Pulmonary fibrosis doesn’t get popular support or much research funding,” Ubben said in a press release. “I probably won’t be around to benefit from the results of Dr. Herazo’s research, but hopefully other pulmonary fibrosis patients will. I want him to find the cure, and I want him to do it at USF Health.”

Monday’s donation will fund the creation of the Ubben Family Center for Pulmonary Fibrosis and create an endowed chairperson position.

Herazo serves as the director of the Ubben Program for Pulmonary Fibrosis Research in the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine and previously served as director of the interstitial lung disease program at Yale University’s School of Medicine. Since joining USF in January 2020, he has helped expand the Interstitial Lung Disease Clinic, a USF and Tampa General Hospital partnership, which cares for 1,000 pulmonary fibrosis patients, according to the press release.

“It is humbling to receive such wonderful support to lead this critical research at USF,” he said. “Mr. Ubben’s generous gift will help us better understand the root causes of pulmonary fibrosis, so we can expedite the discovery of new tests and treatments to help patients.”

Herazo said in an interview that he has been studying pulmonary fibrosis for over a decade. The disease, he said, has a three- to five-year survival rate. While the cause is unknown, two drugs exist for treatment that slow the disease’s progression, he said. Neither treats symptoms nor affects survival.

Herazo studies gene expression and finds molecular targets for treatment. He hopes the gift will allow a team to be assembled to deliver new findings.

“We want to change the game,” he said.