Group photo of researchers attending the 50 years of respiratory research event.

Last month, researchers at the University of Birmingham hosted a celebratory event to mark five decades of respiratory research in Birmingham.

Scientists from across Europe came together to celebrate five decades of Respiratory Research in Birmingham, under the helm of Professor Robert Stockley, hosted by Professor Dame Sue Hill DBE, now the Chief Scientific Officer (CSO) for England and Professor Elizabeth Sapey, Director of the Institute of Inflammation and Ageing in the University of Birmingham, both former students of Professor Stockley. The day focused on the scientific breakthroughs achieved for patients with lung disease, and the people who contributed to them, working with Professor Stockley.

Professor Stockley has worked at the University of Birmingham and University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust, throughout this career, and has worked with world-leading scientists and clinicians from across the globe.

Divided into decades, the meeting started with “the beginning” – how Professor Stockley set up Respiratory research in the 70s and 80s, working alongside Professor Dame Sue Hill and Professor David Adams FMedSci, who completed his PhD working with Professor Stockley.

The next section focused on “The Foundations” and in particular how Professor Stockley developed the largest and most granular global cohort of patients with a rare lung disease, Alpha 1 Anti-Trypsin Deficiency, bringing new understanding of this condition and the potential for new therapies, working with Professor David Lomas, of UCL. Innovatively for this time, Professor Stockley worked closely with both patient groups and the pharmaceutical industry (represented by Dr Pablo Fernandez) to ensure patients had access to the latest therapies and could contribute to research priorities. 

Professor Rob Stockley and Professor David Lomas with two other event attendees.

After this, the day explored the many clinical trials, basic science discoveries and novel therapies Professor Stockley helped bring to patients, celebrating with former alumni including Professor Adam Hill (Edinburgh University) and Professor Alice Turner but also more than 50 other former students who have been guided by Professor Stockley over the years.

Professor Rob Stockley with Professor Adam Hill

The day ended with reflections from people who worked with Professor Stockley over the whole period, including Professor Sir Peter Barnes, FRS, FMedSci, from the National Heart & Lung Institute, Imperial College London, Professor Peter Calverley from the University of Liverpool and Professor Jan Stolk from Leiden University. 

Professor Sir Peter Barnes, Professor Peter Calverley and Professor Geoffrey Higgs

A wonderful day of science and friendship to celebrate a life of research with real impact for patients.