Djukanovic, Professor Ratko

MD, DM, FRCP, FERSRatko Djukanovic

Specialty

Respiratory medicine 

Training and education 

  • Medical and specialist training - Switzerland and former Yugoslavia
  • Postgraduate training - Southampton
  • Senior clinical research fellow, funded by the Medical Research Council - Southampton

Experience 

Prof Djukanovic has worked for the Trust since 1996, when he was appointed consultant physician as a specialist in general and respiratory medicine. He runs a specialist clinic to manage difficult airways disease (asthma, COPD, bronchiectasis and chronic cough). 

With Dr Coleman, a gastroenterologist, and Mr Jamie Kelly, an upper gastrointestinal surgeon, he has set up a specialist service to investigate difficult cases of chronic cough and other respiratory disease to which problems with oesophageal motility (including reflux) could contribute. This provides a tertiary referral service for a large region in South England. 

Prof Djukanovic is a professor of medicine at the University of Southampton's Faculty of Medicine, and was director of the Southampton Centre for Biomedical Research (SCBR) from November 2011 to April 2017. He's the lead of the respiratory and critical care theme within the NIHR Southampton Biomedical Research Centre (BRC), a centre of excellence funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR).  

Together with two university colleagues, he has founded a research company, Synairgen, to develop drugs for asthma and COPD. This company has recently partnered with AstraZeneca, a large pharmaceutical company, to further develop interferon β as a treatment to prevent or ameliorate common cold-induced asthma exacerbations.

Prof Djukanovic has been a visiting professor at several universities. 

Key achievements 

  • Published more than 180 publications in peer-reviewed journals, including the New England Journal of Medicine, the Lancet, Journal of Immunology and respiratory specialist journals, and has generated more than £75 million in research grant income. 
  • An internationally recognised expert in asthma and COPD, who is regularly invited to give keynote lectures at international meetings. His biggest achievement for the Trust has been the award of a NIHR Biomedical Research Unit in 2009, which attracted more than £6 million and enabled the building of a five-storey clinical research building, followed by renewal of the award in 2012.
  • Led the applications by nine UK centres of excellence in respiratory medicine in 2010, which led to formation of the NIHR Respiratory Translational Research Partnership. This partnership has been set up to work closely with the UK and international pharmaceutical industry to develop new drugs for patients with lung diseases and has already worked on several large projects.

Awards and prizes

  • The prestigious Pharmacia Allergy Research Foundation Award, 1993
  • Fellow of the European Respiratory Society (FERS), 2014
  • NIHR Senior Investigator Award, 2015

Research 

Prof Djukanovic is head of the Inflammatory Cell Biology Group, which aims to improve understanding of disease mechanisms in chronic airways diseases, asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). The focus is on immune responses to environmental allergens and viruses, with the view of identifying new targets for therapy and providing a valid tool that enables testing of new drugs using human models composed of lung tissue taken from patient volunteers. 

The team has developed an explant model which uses lung tissue donated by patient volunteers which can be exposed in the laboratory to relevant stimuli that play a role in airways inflammation. This model has been used successfully to provide valuable evidence for the efficacy of new drugs that prevent recruitment of inflammatory cells into the lungs or prevent viruses from causing harm to the airways. 

Prof Djukanovic also heads a multi-disciplinary team whose objective is to find valuable biomarkers of asthma and (COPD). This work has been funded previously by the US funding body, the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and more recently by the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI) grant to study severe asthma (€23 million). This involves a consortium of academic centres and pharmaceutical companies in a programme led by the Southampton NIHR Respiratory BRU, the Respiratory BRU at the National Heart and Lung Institute (NHLI) in London and the University of Amsterdam. 

Find out about Prof Djukanovic's main publications.