National Heart & Lung Institute (NHLI)

Genomic Medicine

Professor Miriam Moffatt, Head of Section 

The Genomic Medicine Section applies genomic technologies to the study of lung diseases and related disorders. We aim to provide a foundation of expertise from which to build ambitious collaborative studies with clinical experts in the diagnostic and therapeutic problems that affect patients with asthma, COPD, lung cancer, pneumonia, interstitial lung diseases, cystic fibrosis and bronchiectasis.

Principal Investigators in the Section lead or contribute significantly to large-scale genome-wide association studies (GWAS) of asthma (Miriam Moffatt and Bill Cookson), atopic dermatitis (Miriam Moffatt) and psoriasis (Anne Bowcock). These studies have found the most important genes that predispose to these illnesses, defining the best points from which to develop the next generation of treatments. A significant element of the research in the Section is devoted to the detailed understanding of the functions of the most interesting genes from the GWAS studies. These functional studies may be carried out in collaboration with pharmaceutical companies who are interested in new therapies.

The Section are active in using other genomic technologies. We are expert in the use of microarrays to discover the patterns of genes that are expressed in diseased and health cells and tissues , and we use next-generation sequencing to identify mutations underlying severe forms of illness and to refine measurements of gene expression. We are currently studying the role of epigenetics in the predisposition to asthma and allergies.

Lung cancer and malignant pleural mesothelioma are devastating illness with few effective treatments and poor outcomes. Our Section (Anne Bowcock, Miriam Moffatt, Bill Cookson and Sanjay Popat) leads collaborative research with The Royal Brompton Hospital and The Royal Marsden Hospital that is improving the diagnosis and identifying new targets for treating lung and pleural cancers.

Common lung diseases with an infective component such as pneumonia, asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) affect hundreds of millions of people worldwide. Pneumonia and COPD are amongst the leading cause of death in every country. The treatment of lung infections with antibiotics is a primary driver of antibiotic resistance in human populations. Our Section (including Miriam Moffatt, Bill Cookson and Mike Cox) are therefore carrying out advanced research into the bacteria, fungi and viruses that inhabit healthy and diseased lungs (known collectively as the lung microbiome).  We are systematically characterising the pulmonary microbiome through culture, isolation, and sequencing of all significant commensal and pathogenic bacterial species from the lower airways and lung. We aim to improve therapy for lung infections by better diagnosis, by understanding of the effects of antibiotics on the whole microbial community, and by finding new treatments.

We take a national role in teaching genomics. Michael Lovett leads the new Imperial College MSc course in Genomic Medicine, to educate students from basic scientists to all levels of healthcare professionals to interpret and understand genomic data. The course provides a flexible, multi-disciplinary and multi-professional perspective in genomics applied to clinical practice and medical research.

The Section encompasses the Asmarley Centre for Genomic Medicine.

Research groups

Professor Bill Cookson and Professor Miriam Moffatt - Molecular Genetics and Genomics
Professor Anne Bowcock - Genetics and Genomics of Cancer and Inflammation
Professor Michael Lovett - Genome Technology and Systems Biology

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