UIC department head honored with Trailblazer Award by American Thoracic Society

Asrar Malik
UIC’s Asrar Malik was selected by the American Thoracic Society to receive 2021 trailblazer award. (Photo: Xiao-Pei Gao)

Over the course of his career, Asrar Malik‘s research has generated more than $230 million in major program grant funding and eight patents. Nominated in part for his commitment to mentorship and pioneering work in endothelial and immune cells, Malik, professor and head of pharmacology and regenerative medicine, is the 2021 recipient of the Assembly on Respiratory Structure and Function Solbert Permutt Trailblazer Award in Pulmonary Physiology and Medicine from the American Thoracic Society. 

The award honors established investigators who have done pioneering research in the area of respiratory structure and function and have guided and inspired others in the field. 

Malik’s work has formed the basis of fundamental insights into the mechanisms of inflammation and host defense. His research has helped define the molecular pathways regulating vascular barrier leakiness in pathologies of sepsis, thrombosis and angiogenesis. His 1990 paper in the Journal of Clinical Investigation reported the discovery of protein kinases as components of the signaling machinery regulating the function of cell-cell adhesion complexes — in this work, he described for the first time that disruption of these complexes results in key hallmarks of inflammation and that drugs that inhibit specific signaling pathways could help patients suffering from vascular injury. Malik’s work on neutrophil migration identified novel regulatory pathways allowing targeted therapies and tissue repair in inflammatory diseases and his recent work on specific cationic channels in endothelial cells and nanoparticles has invigorated the search for anti-inflammatory nanomedicines.  

Malik’s department, pharmacology and regenerative medicine at the College of Medicine, has ranked in the Top 10 NIH-funded pharmacology departments for the past decade and is consistently among the top-funded departments at UIC. As the director of the Center of Lung Vascular Biology, Malik has recruited 13 new faculty members since 2010. Under his direction, the center has evolved into a nationally recognized program on the basis of the quality of the faculty and trainees recruited, level of funding and commitment to research excellence.

In addition to his research and leadership of the department and center, Malik has directed an NIH research training program for almost 30 years, where he has worked toward improving the integration of basic sciences with translational research programs, specifically at the level of PhD and post-doctoral training.

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