Imperial College London

Professor Trevor Hansel retires from the National Heart and Lung Institute


Professor Trevor Hansel

Professor Hansel became an Emeritus Professor with NHLI on 31 December 2020 after 23 years at Imperial.

Trevor Hansel, Professor of Respiratory Pharmacology, retires from NHLI after a long and distinguished career throughout which he has inspired many fellow scientists.

“Hansel is one of the most innovative and influential investigators of his era" Professor Peter Openshaw

Trevor has been Medical Director of Clinical Respiratory Research Units within Imperial at the Royal Brompton Hospital and then at St Mary’s Hospital since 1997. Having studied Biochemistry at Liverpool University, Trevor obtained his medical degree in 1982 in Cardiff, and then completed higher specialist medical training in clinical immunology in Birmingham. Trevor carried out a PhD on eosinophils in asthma in Davos, Switzerland under the supervision of Professor Barry Kay of Imperial.  

Professor Jane Mitchell, Respiratory Division Co-lead for NHLI, remarks "Trevor has been a wonderful mentor to me in my career. If I had to pick three words to describe him I would say enthusiastic, genius and unwaveringly honest, he is also a massive fan of all things from Barnsley which gave me my first ‘in’ with him as a collaborator".

Trevor has a specialist interest in phase II clinical testing of new anti-inflammatory therapies for asthma and COPD, and has worked on a variety of challenge models in patients. In particular on novel non-invasive methods to sample the airways, using synthetic absorptive matrices to measure cytokines and chemokines in nasal and bronchial mucosal lining fluid.  

On his retirement several of Trevor’s colleagues have shared their thoughts and memories of working with him. 

A living legend 

“Trevor Hansel is a living legend in respiratory research and has pioneered new ways to measure airway inflammation in lung diseases, especially asthma and COPD” comments Professor Peter Barnes. “It has been an enormous pleasure to work with Trevor over many years, since I appointed him to head the Clinical Studies Unit at the Royal Brompton Hospital in 1997. He was investigating the effects of new drugs in airway diseases, including several first in man studies – notably the first anti-interleukin-5, which is now standard therapy to treat severe eosinophilic asthma and inhaled glycopyrrolate, an anticholinergic now widely used in the management of COPD”.

Peter continues, “He developed new techniques for measuring inflammation that involve sampling nasal and bronchial mucosal fluid using specially designed synthetic absorptive matrices (SAM). His research has always been meticulously performed and generously shared with many investigators. He has trained many respiratory and clinical pharmacology researchers, who fondly remember the exciting times working with him. Trevor’s research has provided new insights into the immunology and mechanisms of asthma and COPD and his methods have now been adopted internationally”.

“His research contributions and international reputation led to his belated promotion to a Chair in 2017. Many will remember his outstanding inaugural lecture at St Mary’s followed by a riotous party. It has always been great fun to work with Trevor and his enthusiasm knows no bounds. He has enthused many researchers and has always had a completely selfless approach. He is a wonderful friend, colleague and entertainer –  a veritable Welsh wizard!”. 

An inspiration to many

“Trevor Hansel has brightened up our days since his arrival at St Mary’s” notes Professor Peter Openshaw. “He took on a leadership role at Imperial College Respiratory Research Unit (ICRRU), transmitting his passion and enthusiasm to all those who worked there. He has been an inspiration to students at the undergraduate and postgraduate level and has taken on considerable administrative responsibilities in running ICRRU”.

“He is one of the best known and most sought-out investigators in his field, focused on studying the moist surfaces of the respiratory mucosa. He has been particularly resolute in the importance of studying respiratory disease in its natural host, the human subject.

His core contribution has been in the meticulous and insightful methods that he has developed to monitor respiratory inflammation. He has rarely claimed credit for his contributions, instead encouraging others to take credit. Completely selfless in persuading others to use techniques that he has personally developed, leading to many novel insights into the pathogenesis of respiratory disease”.

Professor Openshaw adds “Trevor contributed substantially to many seminal publications from the Barnes lab over the past 25 years, including several very significant first-in-man studies. In his early career he developed methods to purify eosinophils, cited over 600 times”.

“His career was held back by a prolonged investigation that he undertook into research fraud by one of the research team, resulting in several papers being retracted. Trevor’s passionate commitment to honesty and diligence was exemplary, but the time and trouble he took to put the record straight adversely affected his own career”.

“Hansel is one of the most innovative and influential investigators of his era. He has always been more focused on getting the science right rather than on his own promotion. He is genuinely an academic leading light, hidden under a cloak of modesty and generosity.

He is one of the most generous, kind and inspirational clinical scientists I have had the pleasure to work with.  He will be sadly missed by all those who worked with him”.

A contagious enthusiasm 

“Working with Professor Hansel, one would often find themselves being gently coaxed and cajoled into areas of research and lines of investigation they had previously rejected. This was done with such contagious enthusiasm as to be irresistible and, frustratingly, usually entirely justified” says Dr Ryan Thwaites.

“Hansel’s Welsh charm (despite actually being born in England, much to his dismay) is infamous, yet beneath this warm and outgoing persona lies a razor sharp mind and an exacting set of standards that never shied away from 'Speaking the Truth to Power'. As Hansel enters La Dolce Vita (being a keen student of the Italian language) he leaves behind a rich legacy of academic success and a generation of impassioned clinicians and scientists”.

Trevor wishes to give thanks to:

Nick Matthews, Ron Thompson, David Catty, Christoph Walker, Barry Kay, John Morley, Brian Richardson, John Westwick, Robert Wilhelm, Suzanne Cohen, Ian Scott, Alison Humbles, Fang Cai, Onn Min Kon, Simon Nadel, David Jenkins, Charles Pusey, Tim Williams, Peter Jose, Jane Mitchell, Andy Bush, Steve Durham, Sarah Elkin, Mel Wickremasinghe, Clare Ross, Romana Kuchai, Ajit Lalvani, Ian Adcock, Andrew Tan, Tanushree Tunstall, Andy Pritchard, Dan Solanki, Jamey Khan, Tom Conway, Maggie Leckie, Shannon Bryan, Helen Neighbour, Rachel Tennant, Hannah Jarvis, Harriet Owles, Mirae Park, Jaideep Dhariwal, Akhilesh Jha, Tony Cass, Zoltan Takats, Tony Newman Taylor, Jonathan Weber, Miriam Moffatt, Bill Cookson, Eleanor Tucker, Ross Gould of Swansea City, Alun Owen, Joe Joeman, Paul Craven, Ian Pavord, Mona Bafadhel, Kev Dhaliwal, Rudi Valenta, Paul O’Byrne, Larry Borish, Savino Spadaro, Gaetano Caramori, Adam Chaker, Carsten Schmidt-Weber, Eleftheria Pertsinidou, Magnus Molin, Trevor Hunt, Toby Hunt, Duncan Hunt, Peter Barnes, Peter Openshaw and the wonderful Ryan Thwaites. 

…and most of all his parents, wife Jill and children Katie and James.


Ms Helen Johnson

Ms Helen Johnson
National Heart & Lung Institute

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