Imperial College London


Faculty of MedicineNational Heart & Lung Institute

Consul for the Faculty of Medicine, Professor



+44 (0)20 7594 2942m.moffatt




400Guy Scadding BuildingRoyal Brompton Campus





Miriam Moffatt is Professor of Respiratory Genetics at the National Heart and Lung Institute, Imperial College London.  Professor Moffatt obtained her BSc Honours Degree in Microbiology from the University of Reading in 1988. 

She attained her D.Phil. from the University of Oxford on the Genetics of Asthma in 1994, winning a Junior Research Fellowship at Green College Oxford during her doctoral research (currently is a College Senior Visiting Research Fellow). She subsequently became a Research Lecturer and then Reader in Genetics at the University. 

In 2005 Professor Moffatt and Professor Bill Cookson moved their joint research team to the National Heart and Lung Institute at Imperial College London.  Professor Moffatt was awarded a Personal Chair in Respiratory Genetics in 2008.

Miriam Moffatt’s first research endeavours focussed on discovery of the genetic predisposition to asthma and atopic dermatitis. She and Cookson have been international leaders in the field, moving from candidate gene and positional cloning approaches to genome wide association studies (GWAS), expression quantitative trait mapping, and epigenome-wide association studies (EWAS).  These landmark investigations resulted in publications in leading journals (e.g. Nature 448 (7152), 470-473; Nature Genetics 39 (10), 1202-1207; New England Journal of Medicine 363 (13), 1211-1221).

Professor Moffatt’s original GWAS study of 1,000 cases of childhood asthma and 1,000 controls identified the ORMDL3 locus on chromosome 17q21 as a major susceptibility gene. This locus is now recognised to be the strongest and most consistent genetic association to childhood asthma and has a central role in susceptibility to viral-induced asthma exacerbations.  In 2010 she and Cookson coordinated the GABRIEL GWAS for asthma that involved 26,000 in 17 countries, and identified the other major genetic variants regulating asthma risk. Several of these are now the target for asthma therapies.

As a result of these studies Professors Moffatt and Cookson were the first recipients of a Joint Wellcome Trust Senior Investigator Award (Wellcome Trust News Issue 70 Spring 2012). 

Following their recognition that products of asthma genes are concentrated in the airway mucosa, and the extensive evidence that rich microbial environments protect against asthma, Moffatt and Cookson and their group were the first to show that the normal healthy airways contain commensal bacterial communities (the microbiome) that are altered in asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Before this work (PloS one 5 (1), e8578) the lungs were considered to be sterile. As a result of this initial study, the group has had the opportunity to collaborate across Imperial College and internationally to characterize in increasing detail the airway microbiome of the normal healthy lung as well as that seen in major respiratory diseases including asthma, COPD, bronchiectasis, cystic fibrosis, NTM and idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.

Prof. Moffatt has, working closely with clinical collaborators, also built a research base for the early diagnosis of thoracic cancers (lung cancer and pleural mesothelioma). Recent studies have shown that men with lung cancers do worse than women because their tumours lose the Y chromosome (Sci Rep 11, 12453 (2021), and that common genetic variants alter the immune response to mesothelioma (Sci Rep. 2021 Sep 27;11(1):19138).

Miriam Moffatt is a Principal Investigator in the Asthma UK Centre in Allergic Mechanisms of Asthma and was one of the founding Directors of the College’s Microbiome Network

Prof. Moffatt has always been keenly interested in the mentorship and support of early-career scientists. Whilst a Junior Research Fellow at Green College Oxford she initiated a postgraduate research network that continues to the present day. She takes great pride in the achievements of the 40 postgraduate students (either basic scientists or Clinical Research Fellows), she has successfully supervised so far in her career. Consequently, she was delighted to be awarded the Imperial College President’s Medal for Outstanding Contribution to Research Supervision Excellence in 2014. She is currently a Departmental Postdoc and Fellows Development Centre Champion as well as Institute Lead for Postdocs and Fellows at the NHLI and is passionate about the support of Early Career Researchers. She also sits on various departmental committees including Executive, EDI, and HDRC.

Selected Publications

Journal Articles

Hoang LT, Domingo-Sabugo C, Starren ES, et al., 2019, Metabolomic, transcriptomic and genetic integrative analysis reveals important roles of adenosine diphosphate in haemostasis and platelet activation in non-small-cell lung cancer, Molecular Oncology, Vol:13, ISSN:1574-7891, Pages:2406-2421

Singanayagam A, Glanville N, Cuthbertson L, et al., 2019, Inhaled corticosteroid suppression of cathelicidin drives dysbiosis and bacterial infection in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, Science Translational Medicine, Vol:11, ISSN:1946-6234, Pages:1-13

Ahmed B, Cox M, Cuthbertson L, et al., 2019, Longitudinal development of the airway microbiota in infants with cystic fibrosis, Scientific Reports, Vol:9, ISSN:2045-2322

Zhang Y, Willis-Owen S, Spiegel, et al., 2019, The ORMDL3 asthma gene regulates ICAM1 and has multiple effects on cellular inflammation, American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, Vol:199, ISSN:1073-449X, Pages:478-488

Cowman SA, James P, Wilson R, et al., 2018, Profiling mycobacterial communities in pulmonary nontuberculous mycobacterial disease, PLOS One, Vol:13, ISSN:1932-6203

Willis-Owen SAG, Thompson AR, Kemp P, et al., 2018, COPD is accompanied by co-ordinated transcriptional perturbation in the quadriceps affecting the mitochondria and extracellular matrix, Scientific Reports, Vol:8, ISSN:2045-2322

Ahmed B, Cox MJ, Cuthbertson L, et al., 2018, Comparison of the upper and lower airway microbiota in children with chronic lung diseases, PLOS One, Vol:13, ISSN:1932-6203

Groves HT, Cuthbertson L, James P, et al., 2018, Respiratory Disease following Viral Lung Infection Alters the Murine Gut Microbiota, Frontiers in Immunology, Vol:9, ISSN:1664-3224

Demenais F, Margaritte-Jeannin P, Barnes KC, et al., 2017, Multiancestry association study identifies new asthma risk loci that colocalize with immune-cell enhancer marks, Nature Genetics, Vol:50, ISSN:1061-4036, Pages:42-53

Moffatt MF, Cullinan P, James PL, et al., 2017, Metal worker’s lung; spatial association with Mycobacterium avium, Thorax, Vol:73, ISSN:1468-3296, Pages:151-156

Molyneaux PL, Willis Owen SA, Cox MJ, et al., 2017, Host-microbial interactions in idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, Vol:195, ISSN:1535-4970, Pages:1640-1650

Ek WE, Ahsan M, Rask-Andersen M, et al., 2017, Epigenome-wide DNA methylation study of IgE concentration in relation to self-reported allergies, Epigenomics, Vol:9, ISSN:1750-1911, Pages:407-418

Zhang Y, Fear D, Willis-Owen S, et al., 2016, Global gene regulation during activation of immunoglobulin class switching in human B cells, Scientific Reports, Vol:6, ISSN:2045-2322

Löser S, Gregory LG, Zhang Y, et al., 2016, Pulmonary ORMDL3 is critical for induction of Alternaria induced allergic airways disease, Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, Vol:139, ISSN:1097-6825, Pages:1496-1507.e3

Zhang Q, Cox M, Liang Z, et al., 2016, Airway microbiota in severe asthma and relationship to asthma severity and phenotypes, PLOS One, Vol:11, ISSN:1932-6203

Liang L, Willis-Owen SA, Laprise C, et al., 2015, An epigenome-wide association study of total serum immunoglobulin E concentration, Nature, Vol:520, ISSN:0028-0836, Pages:670-674

Salter SJ, Cox MJ, Turek EM, et al., 2014, Reagent and laboratory contamination can critically impact sequence-based microbiome analyses, BMC Biology, Vol:12, ISSN:1741-7007

Molyneaux PL, Cox MJ, Willis-Owen SAG, et al., 2014, The role of bacteria in the pathogenesis and progression of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, Vol:190, ISSN:1535-4970, Pages:906-913

Weidinger S, Willis-Owen SAG, Kamatani Y, et al., 2013, A genome-wide association study of atopic dermatitis identifies loci with overlapping effects on asthma and psoriasis, Human Molecular Genetics, Vol:22, ISSN:0964-6906, Pages:4841-4856

Moffatt MF, Gut IG, Demenais F, et al., 2010, A Large-Scale, Consortium-Based Genomewide Association Study of Asthma, New England Journal of Medicine, Vol:363, ISSN:0028-4793, Pages:1211-1221

Hilty M, Burke C, Pedro H, et al., 2010, Disordered Microbial Communities in Asthmatic Airways, PLOS One, Vol:5, ISSN:1932-6203

Dixon AL, Liang L, Moffatt MF, et al., 2007, A genome-wide association study of global gene expression, Nature Genetics, Vol:39, ISSN:1061-4036, Pages:1202-1207

Moffatt MF, Kabesch M, Liang L, et al., 2007, Genetic variants regulating <i>ORMDL3</i> expression contribute to the risk of childhood asthma, Nature, Vol:448, ISSN:0028-0836, Pages:470-U5

Allen M, Heinzmann A, Noguchi E, et al., 2003, Positional cloning of a novel gene influencing asthma from Chromosome 2q14, Nature Genetics, Vol:35, ISSN:1061-4036, Pages:258-263

Zhang Y, Leaves NI, Anderson GG, et al., 2003, Positional cloning of a quantitative trait locus on chromosome 13q14 that influences immunoglobulin E levels and asthma, Nature Genetics, Vol:34, ISSN:1061-4036, Pages:181-186

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