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Dr Peter Cook

Lung disease expert to join Exeter fungal centre

A leading expert on how fungal diseases affect human lungs will join the University of Exeter next year.

Dr Peter Cook, currently at the University of Manchester, has won the prestigious Sir Henry Dale Wellcome Trust Fellowship and will be joining the MRC Centre for Medical Mycology (MRC CMM).

Of the 500,000 asthma-related human deaths occurring annually, 50% are caused by fungal sensitisation to airborne spores of the environmental mould Aspergillus fumigatus

Dr Cook’s research focuses on understanding how the lung-airway environment influences innate immunity to mediate anti-fungal allergic disease, a recognised key neglected area of research.

Contrary to the view of asthma being solely an eosinophilic/type 2 cytokine-mediated disease, his recent research has shown that both murine and human sensitisation to fungal challenge is comprised of a mixed type-2 and neutrophilic/type-17 cytokine-driven pathology.

This finding is consistent with an emergent paradigm of dichotomous pathologies in human asthma; subgroups of patients have non-eosinophilic immunopathology and therapies which only target type-2 inflammatory mediators (e.g. cytokines) have shown limited success.

A mechanistic understanding of asthmatic immunopathology will radically improve therapeutic strategies for all asthmatic disease.

“I am absolutely delighted to have been awarded a Sir Henry Dale Fellowship (provided by the Wellcome Trust and Royal Society) with my relocation to the MRC CMM at University of Exeter,” Dr Cook said.

“This fellowship will allow me to undertake important questions on how and why fungi mediate lung diseases like asthma.

“This work will be greatly boosted by being situated in this new leading fungal research centre and will lead to the development of new treatment strategies to prevent and/or treat these conditions in the future.“

Dr Cook obtained a BSc (Hons) in Genetics from the University of York, which included an industrial year working at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew London.

He then undertook a PhD at the University of York focusing on how helminth infection skews immune events in the skin.

After completing his PhD in 2009, he trained as a post doc at the University of Edinburgh with Prof Andrew MacDonald investigating the impact of type-2 immunity on innate cells, particularly dendritic cells (DCs).

He relocated with the laboratory to the Manchester Collaborative Centre for Inflammation Research (MCCIR) in 2013 and discovered novel mechanisms that DCs utilise to drive allergic type-2 inflammation.

In 2016, he was awarded the Dean’s Prize to help establish a research group to unravel why exposure to fungi in the airways causes immune cells to mediate chronic allergic inflammation.

Date: 13 November 2019

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