Respiratory & Critical care research

Our respiratory and critical care research teams employ their world-leading expertise to improve diagnosis, treatments and care for those with a range of lung conditions.

Theme lead: Professor Tom Wilkinson

Respiratory and critical care research areas

Allergies, immunity and infection

Predicting allergies and asthma
Professor Hasan Arshad

No effective or practical ways currently exist for preventing allergy and asthma. We’re studying the developing immune system in young children to plug knowledge gaps, working towards predicting and prevent development of allergy and asthma.

Protecting against lung and airway infections

Professor Robert Read

​Infections such as meningitis pose a serious threat to all of us, whilst common infections, such as colds or flu, can cause life threatening symptoms in those with respiratory conditions. We’re working to prevent lung and airway infections, improve detection and find new ways to ensure successful antibiotic treatment.

Critical care

Surviving when oxygen is lacking

Professor Mike Grocott

One in five of us will end up in an intensive care unit at some point in life, and 40% will die, with a lack of oxygen reaching vital organs a major cause. Exploiting the oxygen-thin air at high altitude, via the Xtreme Everest [GK1] research programme, we're simulating the hypoxia (lack of oxygen) experienced by many intensive care patients.

Fitness and recovery after surgery

Professor Mike Grocott

We’ve shown that patients’ physical fitness is linked with their outcomes after surgery. We’re now assessing whether specific exercise programmes between chemotherapy and surgery can improve quality of life and outcomes through the Fit-4-Surgery [GK2] initiative.

Personalising lung injury care

Dr John Pappachan

Patients’ responses to lung injury treatments vary greatly, impacting survival and recovery. We're investigating tailored treatments, based on the exact make-up of the fluid lining the air sacs of each individual's lungs.

Resuscitation during a cardiac arrest

Professor Charles Deakin

When our breathing or heart fails, fast and effective resuscitation can make all the difference. We are continually developing and improving resuscitation practices to give patients the best possible chance of survival, whatever the situation.

Recovery following critical illness

Dr Rebecca Cusack

It’s known that prolonged immobility during and after critical illness impacts people’s recovery and outcomes. We’re evaluating the benefits of physiotherapy at an early stage of critical illness to reduce these effects.

Improving care for the dying and bereaved

Professor Alison Richardson

We're developing and improving palliative and end of life care, identifying the issues patients, their families, healthcare professionals and organisations confront in the face of critical illness and deteriorating health.

Airways diseases

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease

Professor Tom Wilkinson

In 2012 chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) killed over 29,000 people in the UK. We’re working to prevent or reduce the severity of key events in the disease called exacerbations through better understanding and targeting of the immune system.

Severe asthma

Professor Peter Howarth

Patients with severe asthma have difficulty breathing almost all of the time, and often have serious asthma attacks. We’re improving existing and developing new treatments to manage the condition.

Rare lung diseases

Primary ciliary dyskinesia

Professor Jane Lucas

Primary ciliary dyskinesia (PCD) hinders the clearance of mucus, bacteria and debris from the lungs, increasing chances of infection. We conduct long-term research into how PCD progresses in both children and adults, and improving PCD diagnosis and treatment.

Cystic fibrosis

Dr Mary Carroll

Our focus is on understanding and improving antibiotic treatment of lung infections in cystic fibrosis, and the psychological impact the condition has on patients and their caregivers.

Interstitial lung disease

Dr Sophie Fletcher and Dr Mark Jones

Interstitial lung disease is a group of diseases that cause scarring (fibrosis) of the lungs. We’re developing new patient-specific treatments and methods of diagnosis.

Lung cancer

Harnessing the body’s immune system to fight cancer (immunotherapy)

Professor Christian Ottensmeier

Immunotherapy for lung cancer

Around 44,500 people are diagnosed with lung cancer each year in the UK; over 90% die within five years of diagnosis.

It's particularly challenging to treat because very often no noticeable symptoms appear until it has spread through the lungs or body.

Whilst our immune system can spot some changes to cells due to cancer and destroy them as a threat, these cells quickly evolve to evade it. Our approach aims to present the immune system with characteristic features of the cancer cells in a vaccine so that it can once again spot and kill them itself.

Predicting who will benefit

Immunotherapy is successful in 50% of patients - working out why some don't benefit and improving that success rate is a key focus. By studying immune and genetic changes in lung cancer tissue, we aim to develop cancer profiles predicting which patients will benefit, and personalise their treatment.

Developing personalised vaccines

Because every cancer in every patient is different, our second major focus is on giving each person a therapy optimised for their specific cancer profile and immune status is our second major focus.

To pursue this we are using our £4 million CRUK accelerator award to develop personalised vaccines for lung cancer patient, targeting the specific changes in their cancerous cells.

Working with La Jolla Institute of Allergy and Immunology, these vaccines will prime the patient’s immune system to detect and attack their lung cancer.

Current BRC-supported Early Career Researchers

Impact case studies


Cancer drug gives new hope for incurable lung disease


Lynchpin in $220M fight against breathlessness


Enabling new antimicrobial therapies

Current BRC-supported Early Career Researchers

Title of PhD research
Andrew Cumpstey
Med Doctor
An investigation into the use of oxygen in patients undergoing major surgery
Prof Mike Grocott
Chris Brereton
Med Doctor
The role of lysyl oxidase like 2 (LOXL2) in pulmonary epithelial mesenchymal transition
Prof Donna Davies
Jessica Jarvis
Med Doctor
Why do some infants develop persistent wheeze and asthma?
Prof Graham Roberts
Tim Wallis
Med Doctor
Structured Exercise In fibrotic Interstitial Lung disease
Prof Sandy Jack
Dilini Kothalawala
Development of a risk model for prediction of childhood asthma by data integration
Dr Faisal Rezwan
Jelmer Legebeke
Health Service Researcher
Translational genomics, improving the diagnostic return on genomic data in respiratory diseases
Prof Diana Barralle
Clair Barber
Health Care Scientist
Airway inflammometry and the neutrophilic severe asthma phenotype
Prof Peter Howarth
Sruthymol Lukose
Basic Scientist
Eosinophilic inflammation in COPD
Dr Karl Staples
Claire Simms
Basic Scientist
A comparison of the host inflammatory response to respiratory viruses
Dr Karl Staples
Katie Horton
Health care scientist
Characterising Host-Pathogen Interactions in Primary Ciliary Dyskinesia Epithelium and Non-Typeable Haemophilus influenzae Biofilms
Prof Jane Lucas
Ravi Pal
Electronics Engineer
A novel method for automatic separation of pulmonary crackles from normal breath sounds
Prof Anna Barney
Jana Hueppe
Microbial scientist
The role of macrophages in Airway biofilm infections in the context of PCD
Prof Jane Lucas