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Jim Hagood, MD (left) and Ronit Freeman, Ph.D.

The Eshelman Institute for Innovation recently awarded Ronit Freeman, Ph.D., and Jim Hagood, MD, a $350,000 opportunistic grant to pursue research in lung fibrosis.

The award will fund the development of a new peptide-based approach to reverse lung fibrosis and will identify and validate a chemical lead to test for clinical use. Current treatments slow the progression of fibrosis, but do not restore damaged lung tissue.

“This award will accelerate the development of our peptide drug technology. This is exciting, as peptide therapeutics occupy a well-defined space in the pharmaceutical landscape, in which they can outperform small molecules and larger biologics,” Freeman said.

“The funding provided by Eshelman Institute will be essential to develop and optimize lead candidates based on our exciting preliminary studies demonstrating a high potential for reversing established fibrosis. This approach could be a game-changer in the field and provide hope to individuals who struggle for every breath and face a grim prognosis,” Hagood said.

Freeman is an Associate Professor in the department of Applied Physical Sciences. Dr. Freeman offers a uniquely creative and interdisciplinary approach to drug discovery and delivery, integrating Chemistry with Material and Computer Science, Nanotechnology, and Medicine. She is developing bioactive peptides and scaffolds that can interface with cells and surrounding tissues in order to reverse disease or trauma.

Hagood is a Clinical Professor in the department of Pediatrics (Division of Pulmonology) and the Director of the UNC Program for Rare and Interstitial Lung Disease. He has studied the biology of lung fibrosis for over 25 years and this project is based on his laboratory’s insights into the factors driving the progression and resolution of fibrosis.

The Eshelman Institute seeks to fund translational research related to therapeutics focused on oncology, infectious disease, and neuroscience (including rare diseases) and digital health technologies.

Their upcoming grant cycle opens on November 29, 2021. For more information, visit or email

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