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Our scientists

Asthma UK is working with some of the world’s leading asthma researchers, and also supports researchers at an early stage in their careers.

Meet some of our world-class asthma researchers

ProfessProfessor Sebastian Johnstonor Sebastian Johnston

Professor Sebastian Johnston is the Director of the MRC-Asthma UK Centre in Allergic  Mechanisms of Asthma, and Professor of Respiratory Medicine and Allergy and Asthma UK’s Clinical Chair, at Imperial College London.

Professor Johnston is studying why the common cold can bring on life-threatening asthma attacks. Professor Johnston and his team have been looking at ways we can stop viruses from triggering an asthma attack and whether there is the potential to create new treatments which can help people with asthma to live with a cold.

Professor Catherine HawrylowiczProfessor Catherine Hawrylowicz

Professor Catherine Hawrylowicz is Deputy Director of the MRC-Asthma UK Centre in Allergic Mechanisms of Asthma and Professor of Immune Regulation in Allergic Diseases at King’s College London.

Professor Hawrylowicz is studying the possible benefits of Vitamin D for people with asthma. Along with her team she is examining how Vitamin D can help people whose asthma is resistant to steroids. She wants to see if a course of Vitamin D could help to alter the way that the immune system responds in the lungs of some people with severe asthma, making them more likely to gain benefit from steroid treatments for their asthma.

Professor Aziz Sheikh, OBE

Professor Aziz Sheikh, OBE

Professor Aziz Sheikh is the Director of the Asthma UK Centre for Applied Research and Professor of Primary Care Research and Development at the University of Edinburgh. In 2014 he was awarded an OBE for services to medicine.

Professor Sheikh is currently involved in the creation of a UK Asthma Observatory, one of the key areas of work within the Asthma UK Centre for Applied Research.

The UK Asthma Observatory will analyse asthma data from across the UK to look at the quality of care given to people with asthma. This will help to inform decision making about the type and location of services needed by people with asthma. The data will also be made available for other researchers to use in their research projects.

Hear directly from Aziz by clicking this link.

Professor Chris GriffithsProfessor Chris Griffiths

Professor Chris Griffiths is the co-Director of the Asthma UK Centre for Applied Research, and a member of the MRC-Asthma UK Centre in Allergic Mechanisms of Asthma. Professor Griffiths is a GP and Professor of Primary Care at Queen Mary University of London.

Professor Griffiths is currently collaborating with Professor Catherine Hawrylowicz on looking at the effects of Vitamin D on people with asthma. Another area of his research is looking at ways electronic alerts can help doctors to know if someone has good asthma control or not.

Many of the world’s leading asthma researchers are working in our two research centres right now. You can read more about the Centres here:

Meet some of the next generation of asthma research

We invest in the asthma scientists in the early part of their career to help them to become the asthma research ‘stars’ of the future.

Dr Henry McSorleyDr Henry McSorley, University of Edinburgh

Dr McSorley is investigating whether chemicals released by parasitic worms could reduce our immune response to allergens and be turned into a treatment for allergic asthma. During the first year of his project, Dr McSorley was awarded the prestigious Chancellor’s Fellowship by the University of Edinburgh, which will allow him to continue this work on a bigger scale by leading his own laboratory of researchers. The support from Asthma UK has allowed him to become a world-class researcher and enabled more asthma research to be conducted under his leadership.

Read more about Dr Henry McSorley’s research project here.

Dr Hannah DurringtonDr Hannah Durrington, University of Manchester

Dr Durrington is also a medical doctor, and is conducting research based on important things that she sees in her patients with asthma. Dr Durrington is investigating why some people’s asthma symptoms get worse at night, whether this is due to changes in the immune system and what this might mean for the way that people take treatments in the future.

Read more about Dr Hannah Durrington’s research project here.

Dr Anna FurmanskiDr Anna Furmanski, UCL/University of Bedfordshire

Dr Furmanski is investigating how one particular protein in the lungs affects the response of the immune system. Inflammation is one of the causes of asthma, so understanding why it happens in people with asthma and ways to stop it is incredibly important. Since starting her Asthma UK Research Fellowship, Dr Furmanski has been awarded the position of Senior Lecturer in Immunology at the University of Bedfordshire. As part of this post, she will lead a research lab to complete this project and many others; Asthma UK funding has supported her in becoming a world-class researcher and has also resulted in more asthma research being conducted in the future.

Read more about Dr Anna Furmanski’s research project here.


Investing in the next generation of asthma researchers is also a key aspect of the Asthma UK Centre for Applied Research. Within the Centre, 15 PhD students will look into applied research in the next five years. PhD projects include – How can apps help people to manage their  asthma; Would incentives help people with asthma to manage the condition better and the Impact of air pollution on children with asthma.