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Professor Ratko Djukanovic

Professor of Medicine

Research interests

  • Professor Djukanovic has a lifelong interest in asthma, especially its severe forms. where his focus is on: 1) underlying pathobiological mechanisms of asthma, 2) stratification of asthma into clinical phenotypes and mechanism-based endotypes, 3) unmet needs of severe asthma management. He also has an interest in the mechanisms and treatments of severe viral infections of the lung.
  • Underlying mechanisms of asthma: Professor Djukanovic has conducted pioneer studies into the pathology of asthma, applying research bronchoscopy  (with endobronchial biopsy and bronchoalveolar lavage) and sputum induction. He led the initial task forces which defined the use of these two techniques, thereby paving the way for standardised research approches that enabled in-depth descriptions of the roles of various inflammatory cells and their mediators. He developed an explant model, consisting of bronchial biopsies placed into tissue culture, that could be stimulated ex vivo with relevant triggers, applying as needed, novel agents not yet approved for in vivo use in humans volunteers. 
  • Stratification of asthma into clinical phenotypes and mechanism-based endotypes: Professor Djukanovic led the discovery of biomarkers using omics technology (transcriptomics, proteomics, lipidomics, breathomics). After the first ever study of transcriptomics biomarkers in the epithelium of patients with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), together with a colleague from Amsterdam and two colleagues from Imperial College, London, he created a large (€27 milllion) programme for severe asthma (U-BIOPRED), funded by the EU Innovative Medicines Initiative. This has resulted in more than 100 publications, providing insight into novel phenotypes and endotypes of asthma.

More research

Email: rd1@soton.ac.uk

Address: Southampton General Hospital, Tremona Road Shirley, SO16 6YD

Research

Research groups

Research interests

  • Professor Djukanovic has a lifelong interest in asthma, especially its severe forms. where his focus is on: 1) underlying pathobiological mechanisms of asthma, 2) stratification of asthma into clinical phenotypes and mechanism-based endotypes, 3) unmet needs of severe asthma management. He also has an interest in the mechanisms and treatments of severe viral infections of the lung.
  • Underlying mechanisms of asthma: Professor Djukanovic has conducted pioneer studies into the pathology of asthma, applying research bronchoscopy  (with endobronchial biopsy and bronchoalveolar lavage) and sputum induction. He led the initial task forces which defined the use of these two techniques, thereby paving the way for standardised research approches that enabled in-depth descriptions of the roles of various inflammatory cells and their mediators. He developed an explant model, consisting of bronchial biopsies placed into tissue culture, that could be stimulated ex vivo with relevant triggers, applying as needed, novel agents not yet approved for in vivo use in humans volunteers. 
  • Stratification of asthma into clinical phenotypes and mechanism-based endotypes: Professor Djukanovic led the discovery of biomarkers using omics technology (transcriptomics, proteomics, lipidomics, breathomics). After the first ever study of transcriptomics biomarkers in the epithelium of patients with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), together with a colleague from Amsterdam and two colleagues from Imperial College, London, he created a large (€27 milllion) programme for severe asthma (U-BIOPRED), funded by the EU Innovative Medicines Initiative. This has resulted in more than 100 publications, providing insight into novel phenotypes and endotypes of asthma.
  • Unmet needs of severe asthma management: Professor Djukanovic has collaborated very widely throughout his career. Recognising the power of collaborative work, in 2018 he established a European Clinical Research Collaboration, SHARP (Severe Heterogenous Asthma Research Network-Patient Centred). This network consists of 29 European Countries and their registries of around 16,000 people with severe asthma, treated at 340 severe asthma centres/clinics. With the aim to transform the way research is conducted, he invited the European Lung Foundation to appoint a patient as his co-chair so that the current leadersship now comprises two clinicians and one patient co-chair, with a flat leadership structure to enable all voices to be heard and all research ideas considered.
  • Mechanisms and treatments of severe viral infections of the lung: Together with Professor Sir Stephen Holgate and Proferssor Donna Davies, Professor Djukanovic founded in 2003 a spin-out company called Synairgen (link to Synairgen/s website) with the aim to bring their clinical and basic science skills to more effective development of novel medicines for respiratory diseases. The company's focus has since been based on the discovery that Interferon-ß (IFN-ß) is centrally involved in the lung defences against virus and that its production by the bronchial epithelium is deficient in people with asthma and those with COPD. They conducted a series of studies showing the safety of nebulised IFN-ß in people with chronic airways disease (asthma and COPD) and providing proof of concept for its effectiveness to prevent progression of virus infection and development of exacerbations. The advent of COVID-19 presented an opportunity to test the efficacy of nebulised IFN-ß in a potentially deadly viral disease; the first Phase 2 trial showed very promising efficacy (link to Lancet Respiratory Medicine article) and a subsequent Phase 3 trial also showed potential for efficacy in the more severe patients in whom standard treatment was not effective enough.

Research projects

Completed projects

Sponsor: Gerald Kerkut Charitable Trust
Sponsor: European Union
Sponsor: Immunex Corporation
Sponsor: National Institutes of Health
Sponsor: European Union
Sponsor: Novartis Pharma AG
Sponsor: Wessex Medical Research
Sponsor: British Lung Foundation
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