Andrea Frump, PhD, never thought she “would get to be faculty anywhere,” she said.
But in April 2019, while working as a postdoctoral fellow in the lab of former faculty member Tim Lahm, MD, she received the opportunity to direct her own research at IU as a research assistant professor. She jumped at the chance.
Now, Frump is “a rising star in the field of pulmonary vascular disease,” according to Roberto Machado, MD, the director of the Division of Pulmonary, Critical Care, Sleep and Occupational Medicine. Frump became an Assistant Professor of Medicine in that division in July 2020.
Frump’s lab studies the role of the right ventricle (RV) of the heart in pulmonary hypertension, a devastating and progressive cardio-pulmonary disease with no cure, limited therapies and a three-year survival rate of just 55 percent. Her current research focuses on understanding the molecular pathways underlying the development and progression of pulmonary vascular disease, and on utilizing these mechanisms to develop therapeutic interventions.
“Despite its importance, we know so little about how the right ventricle works and how it fails,” Frump said. As a molecular biologist, she is driven “to know why and how” something like RV failure happens. Furthermore, she has friends and neighbors with pulmonary hypertension, and she’s motivated to help them.
“When they are scared and ask me questions about the disease, it devastates me that I don’t have good answers for them,” she said.
Frump first became interested in research while an undergraduate at the University of South Carolina. There, she studied the regulation of antiviral innate immunity, stress signaling, cell proliferation and programmed cell death through a protein called PKR in the lab of her mentor, Dr. Rekha Patel. Later, Frump went on to earn a Master of Science degree, during which she worked on identifying and cloning a novel protein involved in PKR signaling.
Dr. Patel “taught me the fundamentals of working in a lab, and what research was all about,” Frump said.
Then, Frump joined the PhD program in the department of Cell and Developmental Biology at Vanderbilt University. In her dissertation, she and her advisor, Dr. Mark de Caestecker, identified the genetic and molecular drivers of pulmonary hypertension.
“Specifically, we identified a link between Bone Morphogenetic Protein Receptor II mutation type and disease severity in pulmonary hypertension,” she said.
In 2014, she joined Dr. Lahm’s lab, where she investigated the protective effects of estrogen against pulmonary hypertension-induced RV failure. “Women are more likely to develop pulmonary hypertension, but once they have the disease, they survive longer than men,” she said.
These days, Frump has many exciting projects in the works–including an R01 from the NIH/NHLBI, which she received on her first submission. This project focuses on the role of apelin-RAAS-ACE2 signaling in pulmonary hypertension and RV failure.
She has also recently had several manuscripts accepted to journals such as the American Journal of Respiratory Cell and Molecular Biology, the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, and BMJ Medicine.
Additionally, is also very active in her professional organizations, and is involved in several committees of the American Heart Association Council on Cardiopulmonary, Critical Care, Perioperative and Resuscitation, as well as the American Thoracic Society (ATS), where she was nominated as the program chair elect for the ATS Assembly on Pulmonary Circulation. Last year, she won the ATS Assembly on Pulmonary Circulation Early Career Research Achievement Award.
Now, the researcher who “never thought she would get to be faculty” serves as inspiration for those following in her footsteps.
Frump “has been incredibly successful in garnering career development awards that are targeted to early career investigators, and this paved the way for achieving R01 funding on her first attempt,” said Michaela Aldred, PhD, Catherine and Lowe Berger and Pauline L. Ford Professor of Pulmonary Medicine. “Her career path is an outstanding example and encouragement for trainees starting out on their independent research careers."
The views expressed in this content represent the perspective and opinions of the author and may or may not represent the position of Indiana University School of Medicine.
Hannah Calkins is the communications manager for the Department of Medicine.