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Respiratory Disorders


We fund respiratory disorders research projects through our funding programmes, and support training and career development for researchers in the field. 

We deliver respiratory research funded by the NIHR, the life sciences industry and non-commercial organisations such as charities. We support the set up and delivery of this research in the NHS and in public health and social care settings. Our research infrastructure also supports respiratory research funded by these partners, offering expertise, collaborations and facilities. 

We also provide opportunities for people affected by respiratory conditions and their families and carers to influence and take part in research into respiratory conditions.


The NIHR supports patients and the public to participate in high quality research taking place in health and care settings across England, advancing knowledge and improving care. 

NIHR Clinical Research Network

The NIHR Clinical Research Network (CRN) includes 30 specialty groups, who coordinate and support the delivery of high quality research by therapy area. Some of this research is funded by the NIHR, but most of it is funded by non-commercial organisations, such as charities or universities, and the life sciences industry.

The CRN provides researchers with the practical support they need to make research happen. It supports the set up and delivery of clinical research in the NHS and in other health and care settings through our Study Support Service, with tailored offers of support for:

Supporting respiratory research

The CRN Respiratory Disorders Specialty oversees a broad portfolio of research studies across the full spectrum of respiratory conditions and treatments including:

  • asthma, bronchiectasis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • cystic fibrosis
  • lung disease and infections
  • lung cancer
  • pleural disease
  • sleeping and breathing disorders
  • Pulmonary fibrosis, sarcoidosis and interstitial lung disease 
  • Pulmonary vascular disease, pulmonary embolism and pulmonary hypertension
  • disorders affecting the chest wall and respiratory muscles
  • development of medicines for all respiratory disorders

More than 15% of the UK population has either asthma or COPD and a large proportion of our portfolio looks at research based around these conditions. We can provide access to expert researchers in these areas and in more rare diseases such as cystic fibrosis, idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF), bronchiectasis, pulmonary hypertension, sarcoidosis.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the Respiratory Disorders Speciality has helped deliver a number of studies as part of the international effort to develop knowledge, diagnostics and treatments for COVID-19.

Working closely with the life sciences sector

In 2020/21, 50% of respiratory disorders studies recruited to time and target in both commercial and non-commercial sponsored studies reached the NIHR CRN benchmark of 80% or beyond.

This reflects the rigorous processes the specialty has in place for setting accurate recruitment targets and we welcome a collaborative approach to working with industry including feedback on target setting.

We are now active in both drug treatment and medical technology trials, such as endobronchial devices and pleural catheters.

We have mapped the most successful respiratory sites over the last six years and are keen to ensure these sites continue to be offered new industry studies.

We work across several specialties including primary care, ear, nose and throat (ENT), musculoskeletal disorders, children, critical care and cardiovascular disease.

This cross-specialty working has proven highly successful in the recruitment to a number of studies such as the industry-sponsored Salford Lung Study - more than 2,800 participants recruited, and academic studies such as the NIHR Health Technology assessment funded TWICS study - more than 1,500 participants recruited.

COPD flare-ups Priority Setting Partnership

Funded by a grant from the British Lung Foundation, the COPD Flare-ups Priority Setting Partnership (PSP) was established in 2019 to identify the questions that are most important to those affected by an increase in symptoms of COPD is known as a flare-up or exacerbation.

The final PSP workshop took place in April 2021. The COPD Flare-ups PSP Top 10 was published in May 2021.

Who we are

As well as providing research delivery staff, we also bring together highly engaged NHS consultants and clinical academics from top UK universities, bringing both clinical and academic expertise to your research. Our experts in the CRN Specialty Group can advise on delivering your infection study in the NHS and in particular geographic regions. 

Professor Anthony De Soyza is the CRN National Specialty Lead for Respiratory Disorders. Read Professor De Soyza’s full biography

Professor De Soyza is supported by Professor John Hurst and Professor Najib Rahman, in the role of Deputy National Specialty Leads and local specialty leads in each of the 15 NIHR Local Clinical Research Networks.

Respiratory Leads from the Devolved Nations are also part of our national Specialty Group.

Our collaborators and stakeholders

We work collaboratively with national charities such as Asthma UK, British Lung Foundation, British Thoracic Society and the Cystic Fibrosis Trust.

The British Thoracic Society (BTS)

The British Thoracic Society (BTS) exists to improve standards of care for people who have respiratory diseases and to support and develop those who provide that care. It is a registered charity and its activities cover all of the UK.  It seeks to work collaboratively with others and maintain a global outlook. Its members include doctors, nurses, respiratory physiotherapists, scientists and other professionals with a respiratory interest.

CRN Respiratory Specialty delivered two trainee sessions at the British Thoracic Society (BTS) virtual Summer conference in 2021. Professor Najib Rahman, deputy National Specialty Lead, organised the two sessions with Trainee Leads; Victoria Randles and Thomas Jones. The sessions covered early stage academic trainees presenting their inspirational research journeys. Additionally three parallel breakout sessions were held on:

  • Respiratory Trainee Networks
  • Trial design using the Participant, Intervention, Comparator and Outcome template (PICOs)
  • Developing and delivering research ideas

These sessions aimed to raise awareness of trainee and AHP-led research; to encourage better collaboration across regions; and across professional groups; in order to develop research questions to take forward as well as to aid the development of the next generation of researchers. The sessions had some of the highest attendances at the conference underlining the enthusiasm for research within our respiratory healthcare community. 

Cystic Fibrosis Trust

The Cystic Fibrosis (CF) Trust is working towards a brighter future for everyone with cystic fibrosis by funding cutting-edge research, driving up standards of care and supporting people with the condition and their loved ones every step of the way. Dr Alexander Horsley, CF Trust and NIHR Respiratory Translational Research Collaborative (TRC) representative,  attends the Respiratory National Specialty Group meetings. 

Find out more about the Cystic Fibrosis Trust.


Our funding programmes fund high quality research in respiratory disorders that benefits the NHS, public health and social care. We also provide career development funding awards for respiratory researchers - see the careers tab for more information. 

Our funding programmes

We have held a themed call on chronic obstructive pulmonary disease highlight notice (2020). NIHR themed calls are funding opportunities focusing on a particular research topic, in which all our funding programmes participate.

Our commissioned research programmes often seek research proposals on respiratory disorders. Most of our funding programmes also run funding calls open to research proposals on any topic (researcher-led calls), including research proposals in respiratory disorders. 

Got an idea for research in respiratory disorders? The NIHR Research Design Service can help you turn it into a funding application, offering advice on research design, research methods, identifying funding sources, and involving patients and the public. 

Our portfolio of respiratory disorders research

You can search and view all the respiratory disorders research we’ve funded on NIHR Funding and Awards.

In addition, a number of our research programmes publish comprehensive accounts of our respiratory disorders research in the NIHR Journals Library.

Our research units

NIHR Health Protection Research Units (HPRUs) are research partnerships between universities and Public Health England (PHE). The units act as centres of excellence in multidisciplinary health protection research in England. 

The following HPRU undertakes research in respiratory disorders:


The NIHR attracts, trains and supports the best researchers in respiratory disorders to tackle the complex health and care challenges of the future.

Our investment in people sustains excellent research capacity and expertise throughout clinical and non-clinical academic career pathways and provides high quality learning and development opportunities for the delivery workforce in our infrastructure. 

Funding research careers

The NIHR Academy is responsible for the development and coordination of NIHR academic training, career development and research capacity development. 

There is a wide range of NIHR training and career development awards available at different career stages, from pre-doctoral through to Research Professorships. These awards comprise both personal awards, which can be applied for directly with the NIHR, and institutional awards which should be applied for through the host institution.

Supporting the delivery workforce

Supported by the CRN Respiratory Specialty and the British Thoracic Society, the UK’s first national trainee research network aimed at early career doctors and allied health professionals in respiratory medicine launched in November 2021, called the Integrated Respiratory Research Collaborative (INSPIRE).

INSPIRE aims to develop high-quality, large-scale respiratory research projects, driven by enthusiastic respiratory registrars with support from established clinical academics for the benefit of patients with respiratory disease.

Got a research idea? We need your help to get our first research projects underway so please submit any research ideas and proposals by 10 January 2022.
An online ‘sandpit event’ will take place on the 10 February 2022 where research proposals will be discussed; and attendees will choose which ideas will be taken forward. 


The NIHR invests significantly in people, centres of excellence, collaborations, services and facilities to support health and care research in England. Collectively these form the world-class NIHR infrastructure.

This national research infrastructure is available to use by UKRI, research charities and the life sciences industry as well as NIHR researchers. 

NIHR Biomedical Research Centres

NIHR Biomedical Research Centres (BRCs) are collaborations between world-leading universities and NHS organisations that bring together academics and clinicians to translate lab-based scientific breakthroughs into potential new treatments, diagnostics and medical technologies. 

The following BRCs undertake research in respiratory disorders:

NIHR Medtech and In vitro diagnostics Co-operatives

NIHR Medtech and In vitro diagnostics Co-operatives (MICs) build expertise and capacity in the NHS to develop new medical technologies and provide evidence on commercially-supplied in vitro diagnostic tests. 

The following MIC is dedicated to child health and paediatric and undertakes research in respiratory disorders:

Collaborating with partners

The NIHR Respiratory Translational Research Collaboration (Respiratory TRC) brings together internationally recognised investigators in the UK's leading centres of excellence to carry out experimental and early phase research with industry, charities and other funders.

NIHR Clinical Research Network

The NIHR Clinical Research Network (CRN) supports set up and delivery of clinical research in the NHS and in other health and care settings. Find out more on the delivery section.


The NIHR funds and supports world-class experts in respiratory conditions.

In addition, our experts in the NIHR Clinical Research Network (National Specialty Leads) can advise on delivering your respiratory study in the NHS or in other health and social care settings.

National Specialty Lead

Professor Anthony De Soyza is the National Specialty Lead for respiratory disorders.

He is an expert on respiratory health and his clinical interests link to COPD and bronchiectasis whilst he strives to support innovation and research across the range of respiratory medicine. His research experience includes working on a number of commercial trials ranging from phase II to IV as site PI up to and including leading as a global Chief Investigator. 

NIHR Research Professor 

The NIHR Research Professorship is the flagship personal funding award for the NIHR. The scheme funds research leaders of the future to promote effective translation of research. 

Professor Gisli Jenkins’ research aims to develop a precision medicine approach for patients with pulmonary fibrosis. 

Public Involvement

We engage with and involve patients, carers, service users and members of the public in order to improve the reach, quality and impact of research in respiratory disorders.

Have your say in research

We involve patients, carers, service users and members of the public in our national research funding and support activities, including in respiratory research.

The researchers we fund also involve patients in planning and delivering their respiratory research.

Involvement opportunities across the NIHR

Our Local Clinical Research Networks involve people in respiratory research taking place in your local area.

NIHR Nottingham Biomedical Research Centre is dedicated to improving health outcomes for people with respiratory conditions such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, interstitial lung disease and lung infection. It offers opportunities for members of the public, carers and patients to work alongside their research teams.

NIHR Leicester Biomedical Research Centre focuses on promoting the development of new and effective therapies for the treatment of lung disease. They have a group of local people that help to plan and deliver their research.

NIHR Oxford Biomedical Research Centre’s Respiratory Theme studies respiratory conditions that are common and responsible for significant morbidity, mortality and health care costs. They are keen to involve patients and the public across their work.

NIHR Health Protection Unit in Respiratory Infections supports research projects across influenza, tuberculosis and other respiratory infections.

NIHR Southampton Biomedical Research Centre’s respiratory and critical care research teams are improving diagnosis, treatments and care for those with lung conditions, breathing problems and those undergoing surgery or emergency care. Volunteers help to shape their clinical research activities, what is done and how it’s carried out.

Take part in research

Be Part of Research is an online service that lists opportunities to take part in respiratory disorders research across the UK.