The asthma, allergy and immunology service at Southampton's teaching hospitals has been named a world centre of excellence for achievements in clinical innovation and research.
The endorsement of University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust and the University of Southampton's department of allergy by the World Allergy Organisation means city experts will now help to lead training, research and education internationally over a three-year term.
It is currently the only service in the world to hold this status.
In addition to hosting one of the largest allergy and immunology centres in the country at Southampton General Hospital, the department has an extensive research programme alongside hospital care which aims to discover novel ways to prevent the development of asthma and allergy, as well as finding better treatments for sufferers.
Various projects under way involve studying the effects of both genetic and environmental factors and how changes in the make-up of genes can play a role in altering the risk of allergic disease to see how the process could be reversed.
The city's researchers have overseen a number of groundbreaking international projects in recent years, including the development of new diagnostic technology which showed attacks of asthma were triggered mostly by the common cold, as well as discovering the first novel asthma gene (ADAM33) in 2001 in collaboration with colleagues in the US.
Through the NIHR Southampton Respiratory Biomedical Research Unit, staff are currently leading cutting-edge investigations into better ways of treating severe forms of asthma and the use of vaccines during infancy to prevent the development of asthma and allergic conditions in children.
The department, which is closely linked with the David Hide Asthma and Allergy Research Centre on the Isle of Wight, is one of only six in England to care for both adults and children from diagnosis to treatment of allergic disease, while the Master of Science (MSc) in allergy course at the University of Southampton is one of only two in the world.
Professor Hasan Arshad, a consultant at Southampton General and chair of allergy and clinical immunology at the University of Southampton, said: “To be named the world centre of excellence is a tremendous achievement and testament to the magnificent progress in patient care and research by some truly exceptional people.
“These people have kept Southampton at the forefront of allergy and asthma research for more than 30 years and we are extremely privileged to have such an array of expertise and talent within one team in our university and hospital.“We now have a fantastic opportunity to influence international progress in our field over the course of our term.”
Professor Ruby Pawankar, chair of the WAO’s centres of excellence (WCOE) programme and immediate past president of the WAO, said: “The WCOE programme was initiated to further our mission to educate, train and raise awareness in allergy, asthma and clinical immunology among physicians, scientists and patients by collaborating with highly reputable allergy centres worldwide.
“The Southampton centre, our first WCOE, has an outstanding international reputation in the field both scientifically and clinically.”
Professor Lanny Rosenwasser, president of the WAO, added: “The WAO maintains a mission of advancement in the field of allergy through various opportunities. This programme creates alliances worldwide in order to disseminate new information, provide educational and research opportunities and collaborate to bridge the gap between patients and physicians.”
Posted on Monday 10 March 2014