Drug delivery to the airways


The average human inhales approximately 12,000 L of air daily and each breath exposes the airways to a variety of agents of importance in health and disease.

Aerosols – a collection of particles and droplets suspended in air – are emerging as leading cause of disease.

The World Health Organization has reported that urban pollution including aerosols caused almost two million deaths from respiratory disease in 2009. Aerosols are also beneficial in treating disease.

Therapies have been inhaled by humans for thousands of years to treat lung diseases and the last 20 years have seen huge interest in systemic drug delivery via the lungs.

However, the majority of inhaled medicines are still used for the topical treatment of diseases of the airways such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

The goal of our research in the Research Centre for Topical Drug Delivery and Toxicology is to advance the understanding of therapies for the treatment of lung disease.

What the group does

Despite the existence of successful pharmacological agents, the clinical effectiveness of inhaled therapies remains poor. The simple truth is that getting the drug to the target site of action in the lung remains as difficult today as it was when the first inhalation devices were developed.

The airways group focuses on characterising and mitigating the sources of variability in drug deposition in the lung as well as understanding the biopharmaceutics of inhaled aerosols following deposition.

Our research group focuses on developing new pharmaceutical technologies to produce aerosol particles, improve the science of aerosol formulation and understanding how patients can use their inhaled devices better.

The ongoing research activities of the airways group are:

  • Clinical inhalation pharmaceutics
  • Patient-dependence of drug delivery
  • Development of in vitro respiratory tissue models
  • Particle engineering and characterisation
  • Development of bio-relevant formulation analysis
  • Formulation of combination drug formulations
  • Pulmonary absorption, distribution and metabolism (ADM)

Contact us

Find out more about research in drug delivery to the airways.

Email Professor Darragh Murnane.