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 Innovative Medicines and Early Development (IMED) Biotech Unit 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 Vice President and Head of Respiratory, Inflammation and Autoimmunity, 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 Vice President and Head, RIA Innovative Medicines

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. 

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

2011

Woman in Inflammation Science Award

2009


Trabbuchi Award

1996

Pfizer Awards for Science in the UK

1994


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).