- Mechanisms of lung diseases
- Viral-induced exacerbations of lung disease
- Pulmonary fibrosis
Professor Davies leads a multidisciplinary group that studies mechanisms of respiratory diseases, especially in areas of unmet medical need such as severe, corticosteroid refractory asthma, virus-induced exacerbations of asthma and COPD, interstitial lung diseases such as idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) and, most recently, COVID-19. She has pioneered the use of in vitro models allowing the use of methodologies that could not be used ethically in vivo. The group works closely with respiratory physicians and colleagues within the centre, with other academic centres and industry in the UK, Europe and the USA.
Notable discoveries from her work include demonstration of defective epithelial barrier function in asthma, dissection of the biological function of the asthma susceptibility gene, ADAM33, involvement of the epithelial mesenchymal tropic unit in asthma pathogenesis, dysregulation of collagen nanoarchitecture in IPF and identification of a lesion in innate immune response of asthmatic epithelial cells that may explain why the common cold virus causes exacerbations of asthma. The latter discovery led to a patent for the use of inhaled interferon-beta (IFN-β) for treatment of virus-induced exacerbations of asthma and COPD. To translate this discovery into a potentially new therapy, she co-founded the University of Southampton spin-out company ‘Synairgen’, with Stephen Holgate and Ratko Djukanovic in 2003 and she continues to play an active role in the company. The company has developed inhaled IFN-β and successfully completed phase II trials in asthma and COPD. With the urgency of the COVID19 pandemic, the company redirected its efforts towards testing inhaled IFN-β as a treatment for this disease.