PFF Scholars

PFF Scholars: A fund to support emerging researchers

Each year, the Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation accepts applications from researchers who are studying pulmonary fibrosis. Upon acceptance, each researcher is awarded a $100,000 research grant.

The PFF Scholars program is designed to help talented researchers obtain independent funding to continue their studies. The PFF aims to support projects that offer a high likelihood of improving the understanding of pulmonary fibrosis in the areas of basic science, translational research, clinical research, epidemiological research, and health services research.

Each PFF Scholars class tackles some of the most urgent questions about pulmonary fibrosis. Our goal is to accelerate the Scholars’ research and support them in securing more substantial grants for their impactful work. 

Scholars headshots

Meet the 2023 PFF Scholars!

Asres Berhan, PhD, University of California, San Diego

Dr. Berhan investigates idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) using a unique three-dimensional organoid model. Analyzing genetic information at the individual cell level, he aims to unravel mechanisms controlling changes in lung cells, with the goal of discovering new pathways and potential drug targets for IPF treatment.

Ksenija Bernau, PhD, University of Wisconsin, Madison

Dr. Bernau pioneers a novel method to assess pulmonary fibrosis activity using positron emission tomography (PET) imaging. Her research focuses on developing a non-invasive radioactive substance probe to detect and monitor the disease, marking a significant advancement toward clinical application. This proposal is funded by Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals, Inc.

Anna Gersten, MD, Johns Hopkins University

Dr. Gersten is dedicated to enhancing the care of pulmonary fibrosis patients. Focusing on palliative care needs, her interdisciplinary approach, manifested in a specialized clinic, aims to manage symptoms, particularly breathlessness, and enhance patients' overall quality of life.

Stephen Gurczynski, PhD, University of Michigan

Dr. Gurczynski is investigating the relationship between cellular metabolism and inflammation in fibrosis. His research delves into understanding how immune cells respond to fibrosis-related signals, with a current focus on the impact of coronavirus infection on tryptophan metabolism and its contribution to lung diseases. This proposal is funded by Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals, Inc.

Mathew McCarra, MD, Stanford University School of Medicine

Dr. McCarra focuses on lung stem cell biology and its connection to fibrotic lung disease. He is specifically studying telomerase, a protein associated with cell aging, and its expression in different lung cells. Dr. McCarra aims to use his findings to develop new therapies that can improve the lives of patients with ILD.

Goals of the program

The primary goal of awarding grants is to support projects that offer a high likelihood of improving the understanding of pulmonary fibrosis in the following areas:

  • Basic Science
  • Translational Research
  • Clinical Research
  • Epidemiological Research
  • Health Services Research

Submitted grants are reviewed by a committee of experts. Applications will be evaluated and scored based on the following criteria:

  • Scientific merit
  • Innovation
  • Responsiveness to the specific goals of each award category.

The Foundation’s Research Review Committee, which is comprised of a wide-ranging group of international experts, administers the peer-review process.

If you have questions about submitting research proposals, contact Zoe Bubany at

You can view more information on the awards and view past recipients.