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Respiratory Medicine is centred around three research units; the Respiratory Medicine Unit (RMU), led by Professor Ian Pavord , The Oxford Respiratory Trials Unit (ORTU), led by Professor Najib Rahman and managed by Melissa Dobson, and the Respiratory Biomedical Research Centre (BRC), led by Professor Ling-Pei Ho.

Our areas of academic interest are management and phenotyping of severe airways disease, pleural disease including infection, malignancy, interventions and pneumothorax, translational and clinical research in Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis / Interstitial Lung Disease and sleep and ventilation research.

Over the last 20 years, treatment guidelines for common respiratory conditions (COPD, asthma) have encouraged generic “one-size-fits-all treatment” - we believe this leads to poor targeting of treatment, underestimation of potential treatment effects, and unnecessary treatment associated cost and toxicity. Our overall vision is to develop new, mechanism-based classifications of common respiratory diseases and discovery of treatment targets which can be assessed in clinical studies to develop focussed and effective treatments.

The Respiratory Medicine Unit (RMU)

The Respiratory Medicine Unit (RMU) is a specialist centre based at the John Radcliffe Hospital which focuses on COPD and asthma research. Our previous research has shown eosinophilic airway inflammation is an identifiable and treatable trait in patients with severe asthma and COPD; that specific inhibition of this process with biological agents is associated with important clinical benefits; and that biomarkers of type 2 inflammation can be used to direct management.

Ongoing research in this area includes:

  • Investigating the key driving factors responsible for dysregulated IL-5 production in the airways of a subgroup of patients with severe eosinophilic airway disease and to determine novel ways to inhibit this process.
  • Investigating the use of the blood eosinophil count as a means of stratifying patients with acute wheezing illness for targeted treatment with oral corticosteroids and biological agents.
  • Developing novel and specific methods to identify and treat persistent airway infection with the bacterium Haemophilus influenza, which we have shown to be the most important potentially treatable aspect in patients with non-eosinophilic airway disease.
  • Testing the hypothesis that deficiency of a recently discovered airway epithelial damping mechanism is a key driving factor in the development of asthma.

The Oxford Respiratory Trials Unit (ORTU)

ORTU is a specialist CTU based at the Churchill Hospital with expertise in design, set-up, management, delivery and reporting of clinical trials in respiratory disease. We have a strong track record of funding and delivery of multicentre studies at all phases. ORTU runs both national and international trials related to areas of Oxford academic interest, commercial studies, and supports academic trials led by other teams.

The work within the ORTU is funded by various agencies including the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), the Medical Research Council, National Cancer Research Institute and the British Heart Foundation. The Unit coordinates the Respiratory Specialty Interest Group of the Thames Valley and South Midlands Local Research Network. ORTU's portfolio of studies currently includes the following disease areas:

  • Asthma
  • COPD
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF)/ interstitial lung disease (ILD)
  • Novel imaging and physiological techniques in respiratory disease
  • Obstructive sleep apnoea and home ventilation
  • Pleural disease, including malignant pleural effusion, mesothelioma, pleural infection, pneumothorax and pleural intervention.

Collaborations and Network

Oxford academic respiratory medicine is uniquely placed to deliver on the respiratory research agenda with strong academic links within existing research infrastructure nationally. ORTU and the RMU are members of the NIHR Translational Research Collaboration (TRC), with connectivity with the National Research Delivery Network (RDN) for NIHR, and a strong set of collaborative centres across the UK. NMR is National Lead for the Respiratory RDN, and we are respiratory theme leads for the Oxford NIHR Healthtech Research Collaboration (HRC).

Our team