Professor Paul Foster (Supervisor) 

Paul is the Director of the Priority Research Centre for Healthy Lungs at the University of Newcastle, an international centre of excellence for discovery and clinical research into asthma. Paul has extensive expertise in leading research teams that have conducted cutting-edge research, which has significantly contributed to the understanding of asthma pathogenesis. Paul is an authority on the role of the immune response and cytokines in the regulation of infectious and chronic inflammatory diseases of the lung, with a primary focus on asthmatic inflammation. Pauls team played a major role in the preclinical evaluation of type 2 inflammatory molecules in regulating asthma, which underpinned the development of current type 2 biologics that are improving the quality-of-life for severe eosinophilic asthmatics. The teams current focus is understanding the critical responses in the lung epithelium, in response to infection and allergens, that induce exacerbations that are not responsive current treatments.  

Project Status: In progress, beginning February 2022 


Why was funding this research important?
The burden of asthma is substantial for both patients and the broader community. Asthma exacerbations (attacks), most often caused by infection or allergens, can be difficult to control with current medications, and therefore new treatments are urgently needed. 

This research seeks to advance our knowledge about asthma treatments and develop new and better treatments to prevent and reduce the number and severity of asthma exacerbations.  

As asthma is the leading cause of absenteeism in both school and workplaces, reduced exacerbations will lead to reduced absenteeism and increased engagement, participation, productivity and learning in educational and workplace settings. This will improve quality-of-life and allow people with asthma to thrive. 


“We are honoured to receive this support that will underpin the identification of pathways regulating asthma attacks that are poorly regulated by current treatments.   New approaches are urgently required. The gift will also support early career researchers providing experience in supervision of the next generation of asthma researchers” 

-Professor Paul Foster

What are the researchers doing?  

The researcher’s goal is to explore further the role of IL-1 family cytokines in asthma exacerbations. Cytokines are proteins that act like messengers in the immune system, signaling immune cells to initiate an immune response leading to local inflammation. Results from previous studies and the literature strongly suggest that a specific family of cytokines, known as IL-1, may play a critical role in regulating the immune response in asthma. 

The researchers will use novel tools and pre-clinical models of asthma exacerbation to identify the role of IL-1 in asthma exacerbations, establish their potential to prevent exacerbations, and investigate the specific role they may play in the inflammatory response caused by thunderstorm asthma.  

This research aims to establish proof-of-principle pre-clinical data to support the development of a new treatments. Longer-term, after further research and clinical trials, it hopes to lead to a new asthma treatments, which are available for people with asthma on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.  


“This project focusses on the signals in the respiratory epithelium that initiate asthma attacks in response to infection and allergens with the goal to identify a common factor that drives all exacerbations; providing a unified treatment approach for all types of asthma” 

-Professor Paul Foster