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Professor Nathan Bartlett

Professor Nathan Bartlett
Project Grant
2020 Project Grant
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2017 Project Grant
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2016 Project Grant
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2015 Project Grant

What are your research interests?

I am a viral immunologist and fascinated by the interplay between our immune system and virus infections in the lungs. My specific research interests are:

  • how the common cold virus (rhinovirus) causes exacerbations of chronic respiratory conditions such as asthma and COPD
  • the involvement of virus infected airway (epithelial) cells on activation of allergic inflammation
  • understanding how rhinoviruses replicate in airway epithelial cells to discover new targets for anti-viral treatments and vaccines
  • adapting existing research to deal with emerging health threats such as COVID-19 (novel coronavirus)

Why did you get into research?

Viruses have driven the evolution of all living things. It has now become clear that viruses play a crucial role in chronic respiratory diseases such as asthma. The relationship between virus and man is fascinating and understanding the complexities of this relationship, particularly in the context of diseases such as asthma, and this is what inspired me to get into research.

What would be the ultimate goal for your research?

Preventing asthma attacks in children by targeting the virus that causes the majority of these attacks - rhinovirus (the common cold). School age children are particularly susceptible to rhinovirus infections. My goal is to provide new insight into how these viruses cause asthma attacks.

Future Focus

My future focus will be to combine the expertise gained working abroad with the world-class respiratory research being conducted at the HMRI to make new discoveries that will substantially reduce the impact of virus-induced asthma and COPD exacerbations.

I will be exploring novel therapies and treatments to fight COVID-19, a novel coronavirus which was declared a pandemic in March 2020. My team and I are exploring a range of anti-viral options for this virus, and I'm also partnering with other researchers to explore different methods to fight the virus. I'm working with Professor Hubert Hondermarck to assess the safety and efficacy of a range of cancer drugs which have the potential to be repurposed.

We have identified a promising link between growth factor receptors (GFRs)  which promote many cancers, and viral infections. We know that viruses, including coranaviruses, highjack GFRs to support infection, so we're conducting a research project to test whether repurposing existing oncologic drugs could potentially interfere with viral infection and boost the arsenal in the fight against COVID-19.

We continue to work with Ena Therapeutics (MRCF-funded company) who have developed an innate immune stimulant that protects the lungs against respiratory virus infections. Boosting lung innate immunity bridges the gap between vaccine mediated long term protection and anti-viral drug to treat active infection. We are using our coronavirus infections models to determine the efficacy of this approach.

We are also helping local industries that are focusing their business to produce disinfectants, sanitizers and virus inactivating materials that will become part of everyday life as we adapt to coexist with new respiratory viruses such as SARS-CoV-2.


Professor Bartlett is a viral immunologist with 15 years teaching and research experience, firstly within the Section of Virology and more recently within the Airway Disease Infection Section, Faculty of Medicine, Imperial College London. He recently returned to Australia and accepted an academic appointment at the University of Newcastle to set up a research group at HMRI investigating the viral causes of asthma attacks.

His ongoing, long-standing interest in immune mechanisms underpinning disease pathogenesis in host-virus interaction began with his PhD and continued through his first Post Doctoral position at the University of Oxford where he studied vaccinia virus host immune evasion. This experience gave him an excellent grounding (and passion) in viral immunology and paved the way for him to develop his career researching the role of viral infections in asthma and COPD.  

Professor Bartlett works closely with pharmacologists (academic and industry) employing drugs to investigate molecular mechanisms in anti-viral immunity and assess therapeutic efficacy of novel drugs in in vivo infection disease models. 

He has published over 65 peer-reviewed journal articles as well as multiple book chapters and edited one book Rhinovirus Infections: Rethinking the Impact on Human Health and Disease.

Of particular interest is a report describing a model of  rhinovirus infection and exacerbation of allergic airways disease which generated an immense amount of interest within the media, academia and industry. Importantly, this publication initiated a collaboration between his group at Imperial College London and the University of Newcastle researchers at HMRI.

Professor Bartlett was instrumental in transferring these models to Newcastle where they are now an essential tool that continue to contribute to new publications for HMRI researchers. Now based at HMRI, Professor Bartlett is perfectly placed to utilise these models in conjunction with human clinical models to conduct cutting edge research into the viral causes of asthma attacks.

Professor Bartlett is regularly invited to speak at national and international meetings. He has been the recipient of numerous prizes including the Thoracic Society of Australia and NZ travel award, the University of Newcastle DVCR International Visitor Award, the Imperial College/ Welcome Trust Value in People Award.   

Specialised/Technical Skills

  • Pre-clinical models of rhinovirus infection and asthma exacerbation
  • Human airway epithelial models
  • Virus growth and purification
  • Primary cell culture
  • In vitro drug testing


Media and Appearances


RNAi nanomedicine for coronavirus infection
Project Grant

Associate Professor Nathan Barlett (CI), Dr Rodger Liang


Plasma Torque Teno Virus load as a novel tool to monitor intensity of immunosuppression in renal transplant recipients
Project Grant

A key problem with kidney transplantation is the potential for the patient’s immune system to reject the kidney. Hence all transplant patients are given medications to suppress their immune systems. If their immune system is too suppressed, patients are at risk of severe infection; if it is not suppressed enough, they are at risk of rejecting the kidney. Our current methods for monitoring the degree of immune suppression are crude and episodes of both severe infection and organ rejection are common. There is currently no simple and practical blood test which quantifies how suppressed the immune system is. Such a blood test would allow us to get the doses of immunosuppressive drugs just right in each patient, using an individually tailored approach. 



Specifically targeting the airways to prevent virus-induced asthma attacks
Project Grant

Current therapies prevent only ~40% of asthma exacerbations. These figures are in the context of clinical trials - real life asthma exacerbations are even less likely to be prevented.



Specifically targeting the airways to prevent virus-induced asthma attacks
Project Grant

Around 10% of the Australian population sufffer from Asthama. Current therapies prevent only ~40% of asthma exacerbations.