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The University of Southampton

Dr Jens Madsen BSc, MSc, PhD

Associate Professor in Child Health

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Dr Jens Madsen is Associate Professor in Child Health within Medicine at the University of Southampton.

The innate immune system is working 24/7 to combat most potential infections. The concept that we might be able to make smaller versions of this to treat patients where there is clinical need is fascinating to me and is the passion that drives my research.

Dr Madsen completed his undergraduate studies at Odense University, Denmark with a Bachelor Degree in Molecular Biology followed by a Master of Science degree in Biomedicine. His PhD degree in Immunology was gained from University of Southern Denmark in 2002 followed by a postdoctoral position at the same institution. His second postdoctoral position was at University of California San Francisco from 2004 until 2007 investigating the importance of innate immunity against influenza A virus infections. Since September 2007, Dr. Madsen has been a Lecturer in Child Health at the Faculty of Medicine, University of Southampton.

Dr Madsen’s research focus on airways and the importance of innate immunity for the maintenance of a normal healthy lung and during infection, inflammation and repair processes.


BSc (Hons), Molecular Biology, Odense University, Denmark (1993)

MSc (Hons), Biomedicine, Odense University, Denmark (1998)

PhD, Immunology, University of Southern Denmark (2002)

Appointments held:

2007 – 2015: Lecturer in Child Health

2015 – present: Associate Professor


Research interests

Dr Madsen’s research area is mainly focused on the role of innate immune proteins in health and disease. He is particular focusing on a group of proteins called ‘collectins’ which are a part of the innate immune system. These molecules have important roles in the innate immune system but additional roles in the adaptive immune system and other areas are emerging.

Collectins are oligomerised C-type lectins with a collagenous domain, hence the name col-lectin. The word lectin comes from the Latin ‘legere’ which means ‘to select’ and lectins are sugar-binding proteins which are highly specific for certain carbohydrates.

Collectins bind to soluble carbohydrates or to a carbohydrate moiety which could be part of a glycoprotein or glycolipid, which is located on the surface of viruses, bacteria and other glycosylated micro particles like pollen. Collectins facilitate clearance of these particles from the body using clearance mechanisms such as the mucocilial staircase in the airways and by phagocytosis by immune cells such as dendritic cells, macrophages and neutrophils.

Dr Madsen has a particular interest in the collectins Surfactant Protein A (SP-A) and Surfactant Protein D (SP-D). These proteins were originally identified in surfactant, the lining fluid of the lungs responsible for lowering surface tension in the lungs of mammals. This effect is essential for the process of breathing and without surfactant the air sacs of the lungs would collapse during exhaling. SP-D is not only present in the lung but expressed and localised in epithelial cells throughout the body on all mucosal surfaces and secreted to and found in several body fluids such as saliva and tears. At these sites, SP-A and -D facilitate clearance of potential pathogenic microorganisms like viruses and bacteria but the proteins are also involved in the normal homeostasis of apoptotic and necrotic cells, hence both SP-A and SP-D are key components involved in recognition and clearance of altered and non-self targets.

Dr Madsen is investigating, in collaboration with Professor Howard Clark, Chair of Child Health, the roles of SP-A and SP-D in health and disease. The collaborative research also focuses on whether recombinant fragment of human innate immunity proteins, such as SP-D, can be used as a potential therapeutic against respiratory diseases and in addition treatment of inflammatory conditions such as asthma, cystic fibrosis, neonatal chronic lung disease and adult emphysema.

Dr Madsen is also interested in the innate Immunity protein Deleted in Malignant Brain Tumour 1 (DMBT1), which is a composite multi-domain protein. The protein has roles in both the immune system and in cell differentiation/cancer. It has many of the same functions in innate immunity as SP-A and SP-D mentioned above.

Recently, a new research interest in nanoparticles has been pursued. Nanoparticles are very small (have at least one dimension in the nanometre scale) and due to their small size can enter the lower airways where the gas exchange take place. The airways are indeed the primary route of nanoparticle exposure in humans and the increased usage in modern life products has raised concern about the safe usage of these. Nanoparticles have a size similar to many viruses and in the aggregated state a size similar to bacteria. We have shown that both SP-A and SP-D binds to the nanoparticles and can modify the behaviour of these particles, which could have big impact in vivo in exposed individuals. Furthermore, if the nanoparticles bind all the available SP-A and SP-D in the lungs, which would make individuals deficient in these proteins and thereby affected individuals could become more susceptible to virus and bacterial infections. This could have a big impact in people with chronic respiratory diseases such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which already have a reduced lung capacity. Currently, we are investigating and quantifying the protein corona when nanoparticles are entering the lung fluid to obtain a picture of what happens when nanoparticles enter the human body and how this protein corona affects not only the biological properties of the nanoparticles but also the exposed individual.

PhD Supervision


Artur Kirjakulov


Jacqui Pugh, PhD

Zofi McKenzie, PhD

Harry Whitwell, PhD

Alastair Watson, PhD

Research group

Clinical and Experimental Sciences

Affiliate research group

Respiratory and allergy Research group

Faculty of Medicine

Postdoctoral Association Steering Committee, Chair

Integrated PhD Programme Steering Committee, Deputy Chair

Concordat Champion

University of Southampton

Career Development of Researchers Working Group (CDR WG), Faculty of Medicine Representative


Wessex Immunology Group, Chair. Regional group under the British Society for Immunology

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Book Chapter

  • Madsen, J., & Holmskov, U. (2008). Surfactant protein d and glycoprotein 340. In K. B. M. Reid, & R. B. Sim (Eds.), Molecular Aspects of Innate and Adaptive Immunity Cambridge, UK: Royal Society of Chemistry Books.


MSc programmes in Allergy and Public Health Nutrition. Joint module leader with Mr Scott Harris on the Research Skills and Statistics module. Delivers a lecture on the MSc Allergy programme on how to use reference managing software

Integrated PhD progamme. Co-module leader on the Research Skills for Biomedical Science module. Delivers a lecturer on the introduction programme on how to design a research hypothesis

Integrated PhD progamme Respiratory Pathway. Delivers a lecture on the importance of innate immunity during inflammation and infection of the airways.

BMed Sci. Delivers a lecture on how to read basic science papers. Also supervising 1-2 medical students during their laboratory based projects

BM4. Facilitator of small group teaching.

Dr Jens Madsen
Department of Child Health
Sir Henry Wellcome Laboratories
Clinical and Experimental Sciences
Faculty of Medicine
University of Southampton
MP803, F-level, South Block
Southampton General Hospital
Southampton SO16 6YD
United Kingdom
Phone: +44-(0)23-8120-4157
Fax: +44-(0)23-8087-8847

Room Number: SGH/LF77/MP803

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