Respiratory and Allergy

Lead (2017-2022): Prof Ratko Djukanovic

Lead (2022-2027): Prof Tom Wilkinson

Co-lead: Prof Graham Roberts

You can find out more about our team here.


Respiratory diseases affect 10 million people in the UK, kill 1-in-5, and cost the NHS more than eight billion pounds a year. The UK prevalence of allergy is high and rising – a quarter of our population now has a respiratory allergy.

 

We aim to improve clinical outcomes from allergies and respiratory diseases by taking discoveries from the lab and using them to create new diagnostic tests, preventative therapies and treatments to increase the resilience of patients, communities and the NHS.

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What we are tackling – Research Questions

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Preventing 
allergies and asthma from a young age

Led by
Professor Graham Roberts


How can respiratory and allergic disease be prevented at different stages of life?

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Predicting and pre-empting chronic respiratory disease crises

Led by Professors 

Jane Lucas,
Tom Wilkinson and 

Dr Ramesh Kurukulaaratchy 

How can we improve clinical outcomes through earlier diagnosis and personalised treatment?

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Developing 
earlier, faster diagnosis of lung disease for personalised therapy

Led by
Professor Paul Elkington

How do we develop new treatments in a much shorter time frame, with higher success rates?

Our impact

Our research has discovered and developed a promising weapon against a range of respiratory viruses from within our own bodies. We have also turned allergy and asthma triggers (allergens) against themselves, changing international health policy. Air pollution is the leading environmental risk factor for ill health. Our research has influenced policy, providing evidence for change towards cleaner air.

  • We found that applying extra Interferon (IFN) beta protein restores the immune response in those with asthma, kick-starting its development as a treatment. A collaboration with Synairgen has taken IFN-beta into large scale clinical trials, including a drug development deal worth up to US$225m with AstraZeneca.

  • When COVID-19 struck, we pivoted our IFN-beta research and swiftly established a 72% reduction in risk of patients developing severe COVID-19. That led to a large-scale trial in over 100 centres worldwide, completing in autumn of 2021. Read more

  • We conducted a world-first trial of deliberate allergen exposure in infants. Further studies on epigenetic changes (switching on or off of genes) have advanced early prediction and prevention of allergy risk.

  • We have applied our approach to the growing issue of food allergies and modelled how to introduce peanut in infancy across the whole population. This blueprint informed the recently published European food allergy prevention guideline. Read more

  • Working with colleagues in the Netherlands, we showed high levels of airborne metal in underground railways. The findings informed a report to Transport for London by the Committee on the Medical Effects of Air Pollution (COMEAP).

  • We’ve harnessed our expertise as a port city to address shipping-related pollution affecting our communities. Southampton research found high levels of certain toxic heavy metals in ultrafine particulates from shipping.

  • Our respiratory research is frequently cited in World Health Organisation reports. It has also influenced policy through roles for Professor Stephen Holgate including First Chair of COMEAP, Chair of DEFRA’s Expert Panel on Air Quality Standards and UKRI Clean Air Champion (2019).

Image by Tom Hermans

Preventing growth in respiratory and allergic disease

Our research has turned allergy and asthma triggers (allergens) against themselves, preventing the conditions before they start and changing international health policy. Read more

 

Our people

Meet key individuals leading and enabling Respiratory and Allergy research in Southampton.

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Prof Ratko Djukanovic

Professor of Medicine

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Elizabeth Angier

Research Fellow

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Dr Walker Woolf

Consultant in Paediatric Respiratory Medicine

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Prof Peter Howarth

Professor of Allergy and Respiratory Medicine

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Dr Anna Freeman

Clinical Lecturer in Respiratory Medicine

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Dr Hans Michael Haitchi

Associate Professor in Respiratory Medicine

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Mr Aiman Alzetani

Consultant Cardiothoracic Surgeon

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Dr Ramesh Kurukulaaratchy

Principal Research Fellow

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Prof Tom Wilkinson

Professor of Respiratory Medicine

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Dr Franco Conforti

Research Fellow

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Prof Miriam Santer

Professor of Primary Care Research

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Dr Yihua Wang

Lecturer in Biomedical Sciences, Principal Investigator (cell signalling)

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Prof Sumeet Mahajan

Professor of Molecular Biophotonics & Imaging

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Professor Gary Connett

Professor of Paediatric Respiratory Medicine

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Prof Hywel Morgan

Professor of Bioelectronics

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Dr Mark Jones

Associate Professor in Respiratory Medicine, Honorary Consultant

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Prof Donna Davies

Professor of Respiratory Cell and Molecular Biology

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Dr Andres Vallejo

Research Fellow in Systems Immunology

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Dr Marta Polak

Research Fellow

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Prof Anthony Postle

Professor in Developmental Biochemistry

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Dr Sophie Fletcher

Consultant Physician

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Dr Emily Swindle

Associate Professor in Pharmacology

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Prof Michael Boniface

Professor of Information Systems

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Prof Gareth Griffiths

Professor of Clinical Trials, Director of Southampton Clinical Trials Unit

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Prof Graham Roberts

Professor of Paediatric Allergy and Respiratory Medicine

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Dr Luise Marino

Chief paediatric dietitian

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Prof Damon Teagle

Professor of Geochemistry

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Prof Peter Johnson

Professor of Medical Oncology

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Prof Nick Francis

Professor of Primary Care Research

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Prof Diana Baralle

Professor of Genomic Medicine

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Dr Karl Staples

Respiratory & Critical Care Academic Career Development Lead

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Prof Paul Elkington

Professor of Respiratory Medicine

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Prof Jane Lucas

Professor of Paediatric Respiratory Medicine

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Dr Hitasha Rupani

Consultant respiratory physician

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Prof Gavin Foster

Professor of Isotope Geochemistry

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Prof Stephen Holgate

Professor of Immunopharmacology

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Prof Martin Feelisch

Professor of Experimental Medicine & Integrative Biology

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Dr Cornelia Blume

Research Fellow

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Dr Tilman Sanchez-Elsner

Associate Professor in Biomedicine

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Prof Hasan Arshad

Professor of Allergy and Clinical Immunology

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Dr Liku Tezera

Postdoctoral Research Fellow

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Dr Mary Carroll

Consultant

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Dr Claire Jackson

Senior Research Fellow and Primary Ciliary Dyskinesia (PCD) scientist

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Prof John Holloway

Professor of Allergy and Respiratory Genetics

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Dr Andrew Walls

Reader in Immunopharmacology

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Dr Matthew Loxham

BBSRC Future Leader Fellow