Ilona Jaspers, PhD, professor of pediatrics, microbiology and immunology, and environmental sciences and engineering, has been named Director of the Center for Environmental Medicine, Asthma, and Lung Biology effective May 31, 2020. Jaspers previously served as the Center’s Deputy Director.


Ilona Jaspers, PhD, professor of pediatrics, microbiology and immunology, and environmental sciences and engineering, has been named Director of the Center for Environmental Medicine, Asthma, and Lung Biology effective May 31, 2020. Jaspers previously served as the Center’s Deputy Director.

David Peden, MD, MS, has stepped down as Center Director, a position he has held since 2002.

“We are extremely grateful for David’s leadership of the center for the last eighteen years, said Blossom Damania, PhD, UNC School of Medicine’s Vice Dean for Research. “Under his leadership, the center has provided crucial translational research supporting more stringent national air quality standards and expanded its research portfolio to include big data approaches in environmental research, interventions for pollutant-induced airway disease and asthma.”

Peden plans to use this transition to focus on his robust research program on environmental medicine and asthma therapeutics, and his role as senior associate dean for translational research in the SOM Office of Research.

Jaspers is a toxicologist with expertise on exposure to environmental oxidants and its impact on human immune responses. Over the last several years, Jaspers has achieved national prominence as a leading researcher into the health effects of air pollution on human antiviral host defense, inhaled toxicant effects on respiratory immune responses, as well as health effects of vaping and e-cigarette use. She also directs the highly ranked and successful Curriculum in Toxicology and Environmental Medicine and is dedicated to the training and mentoring of young scientists at all levels.

The Center for Environmental Medicine, Asthma, and Lung Biology was launched at UNC in 1979 and is focused on researching environmental impacts on human health, particularly respiratory health. The Center’s work is closely aligned with other environmental research units on campus, including the Center for Environmental Health and Susceptibility, the Institute for the Environment and the U.S. EPA’s Public Health and Integrated Toxicology Division co-located with the Center in the Human Studies Facility located on UNC’s campus.

As Director, Jaspers will have oversight on the Center’s extensive clinical research infrastructure as well as facilitate collaboration with researchers and clinicians throughout the UNC School of Medicine as well as investigators across the entire UNC campus.