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We will only beat bronchiectasis by working together

Prof James Chalmers is one our researchers who's investigating cures and treatments into bronchiectasis. 


During my training days, I met many people with bronchiectasis. Many of them were frustrated because of the lack of effective treatments. But a lot of them said they were often misunderstood by people around them.  

Lung infections are one of the leading causes of death worldwide. Despite the devastating impact of bronchiectasis, there seemed to be very little research around it. That’s why I decided to focus my career in bronchiectasis research. I felt like I could make a big impact.  

I got started in bronchiectasis research thanks to a PhD grant from the Medical Research Council (MRC). What’s crazy is that it was the first grant for a bronchiectasis project in 50 years!  

Fixing the cycle

In bronchiectasis, there’s a common cycle of inflammation and infection, where the body’s own defences damage the lungs instead of killing the bacteria. This leads to flare-ups and worsening symptoms, called exacerbations. 

I think we can fix this cycle by finding better ways to use antibiotics, and by developing new treatments that improve the way the lungs’ defences work. 

One major problem is that no two people with bronchiectasis are alike. In the past, a drug that’s worked on one person may not work in someone else. So, what’s the solution? 

Bronchiectasis "lungprints"

Thanks to a grant from the BLF, my research uses new technologies to create ‘lungprints’ - like a unique fingerprint, but of your lungs. By doing this, we hope we can eventually match the right treatment to the right person, at the right time. Personalised treatments would be more effective and have fewer side effects.

In the short term, it’d mean we could guide doctors to use drugs more effectively. And in the long term, we could help them develop better drugs that target the root cause of every individual's bronchiectasis. It could transform the way we treat bronchiectasis. 

Over the next 5 years, our study will identify lungprints in over 1,000 people with bronchiectasis across Europe. It’s going to be the largest and most detailed study of bronchiectasis ever undertaken!

Since I began working in bronchiectasis, I’ve done everything I possibly can to raise the profile of the disease and to bring new investigators and scientists into the field. It’s so exciting to see the progress we’re achieving and it's only thanks to the generous donations of BLF supporters.

Find out more about how our research is changing lives 

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25 March 2019