My passion for respiratory science started when I was at university. I was fascinated with how the respiratory system interacts with immune and environmental triggers. In normal lungs these triggers are protective but in patients with chronic lung disease these can become harmful and contribute to increased troublesome symptoms. It was clear then that there were significant therapeutic needs in these patients that were not addressed by the current treatments. As a Respiratory Pharmacologist, my proudest achievements are therefore working on two therapeutic agents which are now used in the treatment of asthma and COPD. Although significant advances have been made, we still need to work on not just the treatment of chronic lung disease but also on disease modification and cure.

In September 2017, I joined AstraZeneca’s BioPharmaceuticals R&D group to head up the Respiratory, Inflammation & Autoimmunity research. I am based in Gothenburg, Sweden, at one of AstraZeneca’s three strategic research and development hubs, also home to the company’s early-stage respiratory research. In my role as Senior Vice President and Head of Early Respiratory, Inflammation and Autoimmunity (RIA), I lead early-stage research and development in chronic diseases of the lung – such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) and chronic cough. We focus on three areas: lung epithelium, lung immunity and lung regeneration. I am really enjoying being part of the Respiratory team at AstraZeneca because it has given me the opportunity to work alongside inspiring scientists, and within a global organisation that has the expertise and capacity needed to drive science towards new medicines for patients.

Although significant advances have been made, we still need to work on not just the treatment of chronic lung disease but also on disease modification and cure.

Maria Belvisi Senior Vice President and Head of Research and Early Development, Respiratory & Immunology, BioPharmaceuticals R&D

Alongside my role at AstraZeneca, I am Professor of Respiratory Pharmacology and Head of the Respiratory Pharmacology Group at Imperial College London. My research is focused on the cellular and molecular mechanisms of asthma, COPD and chronic cough, with the aim of developing therapies for these conditions. I enjoy helping to drive the research efforts here and to be part of training the next generation of respiratory scientists.

I was research director for the European Respiratory Society (ERS) from 2013 to 2016, and I have served on the editorial board of several scientific journals, including the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care MedicineEuropean Respiratory Journal and executive editor of Pharmacology and Therapeutics. I write extensively about respiratory illness and treatment, with many of my papers being cited by peers and referenced in other publications. I am also an elected Fellow of the British Pharmacological Society, European Respiratory Society and the Academy of Medical Sciences.

My experience in industry includes leading a team at Rhône-Poulenc Rorer (now Aventis Pharma) focused on respiratory disease. In 2010, I also started my own company with my colleague, Dr Mark Birrell, called IR Pharma, a Respiratory Pharmacology pre-clinical drug discovery organisation.

British Pharmacological Society AstraZeneca Women in Pharmacology Prize


Woman in Inflammation Science Award


Trabbuchi Award


Pfizer Awards for Science in the UK


Key Achievements

I am honoured to have been involved in developing a clinical treatment for asthma. This work is significant to me because of the direct benefit I can see that I have bought to this patient group through following the science. Together with Professor Peter Barnes, I was involved in generating key data sets during the pre-clinical development of a COPD treatment.

Together with Professor Peter Barnes, I was involved in generating key data sets during the pre-clinical development of a COPD treatment.

Gaining international recognition as an expert in the respiratory field, publishing over 200 peer review papers and being called to participate on programme committees for international respiratory meetings. I have also been in receipt of prestigious funding awards from the Wellcome Trust and the Medical Research Council. I was proud to be elected as a fellow of the British Pharmacological Society in 2005 and to be one of the 129 founding members of European Respiratory Society (FERS).

  Featured publications

Mechanistic link between diesel exhaust particles and respiratory reflexes.

Robinson RK, Birrell MA, Adcock JJ, Wortley MA, Dubuis ED, Chen S, McGilvery CM, Hu S, Shaffer MSP, Bonvini SJ, Maher SA, Mudway IS, Porter AE, Carlsten C, Tetley TD, Belvisi MG. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2018 Mar;141(3):1074-1084.e9.

XEN-D0501, a Novel Transient Receptor Potential Vanilloid 1 Antagonist, Does Not Reduce Cough in Patients with Refractory Cough.

Belvisi MG, Birrell MA, Wortley MA, Maher SA, Satia I, Badri H, Holt K, Round P, McGarvey L, Ford J, Smith JA. Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 2017 Nov 15;196(10):1255-1263.

Transient receptor potential cation channel, subfamily V, member 4 and airway sensory afferent activation: Role of adenosine triphosphate.

Bonvini SJ, Birrell MA, Grace MS, Maher SA, Adcock JJ, Wortley MA, Dubuis E, Ching YM, Ford AP, Shala F, Miralpeix M, Tarrason G, Smith JA, Belvisi MG.  J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2016 Jul;138(1):249-261.e12.

Neurophenotypes in Airway Diseases. Insights from Translational Cough Studies.

Belvisi MG, Birrell MA, Khalid S, Wortley MA, Dockry R, Coote J, Holt K, Dubuis E, Kelsall A, Maher SA, Bonvini S, Woodcock A, Smith JA.  Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 2016 Jun 15;193(12):1364-72.

Therapeutic advances for treatment-resistant cough.

Belvisi MG. Lancet. 2015 Mar 28;385(9974):1160-2.

Role of transient receptor potential and pannexin channels in cigarette smoke-triggered ATP release in the lung.

Baxter M, Eltom S, Dekkak B, Yew-Booth L, Dubuis ED, Maher SA, Belvisi MG, Birrell MA. Thorax. 2014 Dec;69(12):1080-9.

A role for sensory nerves in the late asthmatic response.

Raemdonck K, de Alba J, Birrell MA, Grace M, Maher SA, Irvin CG, Fozard JR, O'Byrne PM, Belvisi MG. Thorax. 2012 Jan;67(1):19-25.

Bronchodilator activity of bitter tastants in human tissue.

Belvisi MG, Dale N, Birrell MA, Canning BJ.  Nat Med. 2011 Jul 7;17(7):776.

EP4 receptor as a new target for bronchodilator therapy.

Buckley J, Birrell MA, Maher SA, Nials AT, Clarke DL, Belvisi MG. Thorax. 2011 Dec;66(12):1029-35.

TRPA1 agonists evoke coughing in guinea pig and human volunteers.

Birrell MA, Belvisi MG, Grace M, Sadofsky L, Faruqi S, Hele DJ, Maher SA, Freund-Michel V, Morice AH. Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 2009 Dec 1;180(11):1042-7.

Ikappa-B kinase-2 inhibitor blocks inflammation in human airway smooth muscle and a rat model of asthma.

Birrell MA, Hardaker E, Wong S, McCluskie K, Catley M, De Alba J, Newton R, Haj-Yahia S, Pun KT, Watts CJ, Shaw RJ, Savage TJ, Belvisi MG.  Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 2005 Oct 15;172(8):962-71

Preclinical profile of ciclesonide, a novel corticosteroid for the treatment of asthma.

Belvisi MG, Bundschuh DS, Stoeck M, Wicks S, Underwood S, Battram CH, Haddad el-B, Webber SE, Foster ML.  J Pharmacol Exp Ther. 2005 Aug;314(2):568-74

Therapeutic benefit of a dissociated glucocorticoid and the relevance of in vitro separation of transrepression from transactivation activity.

Belvisi MG, Wicks SL, Battram CH, Bottoms SE, Redford JE, Woodman P, Brown TJ, Webber SE, Foster ML.  J Immunol. 2001 Feb 1;166(3):1975-82.

Bradykinin-evoked sensitization of airway sensory nerves: a mechanism for ACE-inhibitor cough.

Fox AJ, Lalloo UG, Belvisi MG, Bernareggi M, Chung KF, Barnes PJ. Nat Med. 1996 Jul;2(7):814-7.

Effect of Ba 679 BR, a novel long-acting anticholinergic agent, on cholinergic neurotransmission in guinea pig and human airways.

Takahashi T, Belvisi MG, Patel H, Ward JK, Tadjkarimi S, Yacoub MH, Barnes PJ.  Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 1994 Dec;150(6 Pt 1):1640-5.