Nikolaos (Nikos) Papadopoulos is a world leading expert in allergy and asthma, through work on basic, translational and clinical aspects of the disease, as well as advocacy, pursued continuously for over 20 years. The focus of his research has been the role of infection, in particular rhinovirus (RV) infection, on asthma exacerbations and its interaction with atopy as keystone events of respiratory allergy pathophysiology as well as targets for treatment. Aspiring to develop impactful interventions at the clinical and public health domains, he has contributed to guidelines, real-life research and precision medicine.
He did his medical and doctoral studies at the University of Athens, Greece and postdoctoral studies at the University of Southampton, UK, under the guidance of Sir Stephen Holgate and Sebastian Johnston. He then pursued an academic career in Athens, becoming Professor of Allergy & Pediatric Allergy and Head of the Pediatric Allergy Department. He also holds Honorary Professorships at the University of Manchester and at OPRI, Singapore.
In the course of this career, he has identified some of the key mechanisms leading from common viral exposures to asthma exacerbations and persistence: his original studies in Southampton conclusively showed that RVs are capable of and infect the bronchial mucosa in humans (J Med Virol, 1999, J Infect Dis, 2000). They then induce local inflammation, initiating the exacerbation cascade (Clin Exp All, 2001), and synergize with house dust mite antigens (Clin Exp All, 2008). He has been the first to show that RVs can become cytotoxic (Respir Res, 2005) and induce viremia (AJRCCM, 2005). Explaining why atopic asthmatics are more susceptible to mild infectious agents than healthy individuals, he demonstrated already in 2002, a Th2 shifted, defective immune response to RV in asthma (Thorax 2002), followed by clinical proof of how atopy skews the duration of airway hyperresponsiveness following a viral infection (JACI 2005). A milestone finding was the capacity of RV to induce airway remodelling-associated growth factors with functional capacity (JACI 2006, CEA 2008, CTA 2012), suggesting that repeated viral infections may be the drivers of asthma persistence and the transition from wheeze to asthma.
In more recent years, aspiring to address the challenges behind the generation of a vaccine for RV, he has identified a misdirected antibody response as a viral escape mechanism (FASEB J, 2012) and developed a chip capable of measuring subtype RV antibody responses (Nature Comm, 2018), with which he showed that while antibodies against type A and C RVs increase in parallel to the number of infections, there is little if any protection from subsequent events (AJRCCM, 2018). In the context of the EU project PreDicta (PAI, 2018), specific antisense inhibitors against RV infection (DNAzymes) were identified (JACI, 2019), while key molecular events were characterized, such as T-cell deviation induced by RV-induced IL33 (AJRCCM, 2014), the pivotal role of plasmacytoid dendritic cells in exacerbations (JACI 2018), and the functions of IL17 (Mucosal Immunol 2016), IFN-lamda (ERJ, 2017), IL-33 (Sci Rep, 2017), TGF-b (JACI 2017) and ILCs (Sci Rep, 2019).
Working with RVs, he has improved molecular diagnosis (J Virol Meth, 1999), has observed, for the first time, their impact on acute bronchiolitis in infants (AJRCCM, 2002) and in pneumonia in older children (Clin Infect Dis, 2004), has contributed to the development of the first functional RV mouse model (J Gen Virol, 2003) and has generated models evaluating asthma drugs (CEA, 2006, CEA 2009).
In parallel to his basic and translational research work he has remained clinically active, while he has been part of numerous efforts towards optimization of asthma treatment, proposing, among other, an algorithm for pediatric asthma phenotyping (Allergy, 2008), an algorithm for the use of molecular diagnosis to inform allergen immunotherapy for rhinitis and asthma (IAAI, 2013) and has led the 2012 International Consensus on Pediatric Asthma (Allergy, 2012). In the context of the EU project EARIP, he has proposed a stakeholder map to target advocacy actions for asthma research (ERJ, 2017), while he is leading efforts to recognize the value and standardize real-life research in asthma (CTA 2019, ERJ 2019).
He has a passion for education, having supervised more than 20 PhDs, has organized over 100 educational events and has trained doctors in the clinic and researchers in the lab. He is invited speaker at international events more than 30 times a year.
He has participated and/or led several European high-impact projects related to asthma or allergy, from FP5 all the way to Horizon2020. Notably, he joined BIOAIR (FP5, 2000-2004), longitudinally evaluating biomarkers of severe asthma, was among the team that designed and run GA2LEN (FP6, 2004-8), the Global Allergy & Asthma European Network, coordinated “PreDicta” (FP7, 2010-2016), evaluating the post-infectious immune reprogramming and its association with persistence and chronicity of asthma, and is currently the coordinator of the Horizon2020 Future & Emerging Technologies “CURE”, constructing a ‘Eubiosis-Reistatement Therapy’ for asthma (2017-2022).
He has participated in and actively served many international societies, including committees of the ERS and EFA, but most notably EAACI, of which he was President 2013-2015 and the Respiratory Effectiveness Group (REG), of which he was President from 2018-2020.
For his work he has received several international awards, among other, the EAACI Clemens von Pirquet Award (2019), the PhARF award (2010), the Klosterfrau International Award for Research in Pediatric Asthma (2003) and the ERS Annual Award for Pediatric Respiratory Research in Europe (2004). Overall, he has published over 500 papers, receiving more than 45000 citations and an h-index of 97 (Google Scholar).
He is Editor-in-Chief of Frontiers in Allergy, Associate Editor of Clinical & Translational Allergy and member of the Editorial Boards of several scientific journals.
His latest research direction is towards the role of the respiratory virome and metagenome in asthma activity and exacerbations. At the international front, he has organized PeARL (Pediatric Asthma in Real-Life), a think tank that aims to contribute in the everyday management of the disease and has, among other, evaluated the impact of the COVID pandemic on pediatric asthma patients (JACI:In Practice, 2020).