Meet APF scientist Dr Philip Molyneaux

Smiling male scientist with suit and tie.
November 2021

Action for Pulmonary Fibrosis directly funds research that has the potential to lead to the development of effective treatments and a cure for pulmonary fibrosis. Meet our scientist, Dr Philip Molyneaux and learn more about the exciting work he is doing.

Why are you passionate about pulmonary fibrosis research?

Fibrosis is just such an intriguing and fascinating process to study. Historically there has not been a lot of focus on it given the complexity of the disease process but over the past few years that has changed. We have made massive discoveries over the past decade that have completely revolutionised how we treat fibrosis.  We have also identified more challenges and areas where we must do better to help our patients. It’s this need to understand more and evolving challenge which motivates me in my research.”

What is the current focus of your research?

“I’m currently focused on understanding how the bacteria in the airways affect the lungs and how I can disrupt that process. I have been comparing the way healthy cells from the lung react to bacteria, with the response from cells from patients with Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis (IPF) and I have identified a number of differences.  Studying these differences has then helped me to discover ways of trying to drive the response from IPF patients’ cells to be more like that seen in healthy cells, with the hope this will stop or slow down the development of fibrosis.”

“Outside of the lab I’ve also been focused on trying to understand more about the concept of progressive fibrotic interstitial lung disease. I helped co-ordinate a national study which helped establish how big a problem it was in the UK.  I have also completed a project looking at how PF-ILD progresses over time so we can help guide and inform our patients in the future.”

Why is it important that APF funds pulmonary fibrosis research?

The support that APF have provided me has allowed me to follow my own research schedule and continue the clinical care of patients with pulmonary fibrosis. This has been crucial for me as I established my lab and research career. It’s meant the freedom to generate the data I needed to understand how to direct my research and be able to aim for the best possible outcomes for patients.

“It’s very difficult to get funding to allow you to explore things with such freedom, and this has meant that I’ve now got multiple avenues to pursue over the next 5 years. The ongoing contact with patients not only means that I’m continually motivated and inspired, but also flags up new areas of need and ideas on how to improve and direct my research.”

What do you hope your research will achieve?

“Over the next 12 months I am going to start looking at the effects of antibiotics on the bacteria and pathways which are different in patients diagnosed with IPF. There have been large studies looking at the use of antibiotics in IPF patients which question the usefulness of this treatment.  However, these studies did not select patients where bacteria may be playing a role. My first aim is to demonstrate we can use antibiotics to make a difference to certain patients with IPF. The next challenge is to identify an easy and non-invasive test to highlight specific patients whom may benefit from these therapies. At present we use bronchoscopy (a camera test into the lungs), but for this to be of benefit to as many patients as possible we need a much quicker and simpler test. In the future, I hope that my research enables patients affected by pulmonary fibrosis to have access to treatments tailored to their specific needs.”

Dr Philip Molyneaux is based at Imperial College London and receives funding through our Mike Bray Fellowship award scheme. Dr Molyneaux is a Reader in Interstitial Lung Disease and Honorary Consultant at the Royal Brompton Hospital, where he is the director of the Clinical Research Facility.

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