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Otago Respiratory Research Unit


We investigate respiratory disease and its treatment at our research unit based in Dunedin Hospital. Our skilled and experienced staff are involved in academic studies and pharmaceutical clinical trials across a range of respiratory diseases, and we have research opportunities for both undergraduate and postgraduate students.

Respiratory Research Group 2

The Respiratory Research Unit team (from left): Dr Jack Dummer, Dr Ben Brockway, Ms Jan Cowan, Mrs Cathy Modrich


The Otago Respiratory Research Unit is best known for work on exhaled nitric oxide as a biomarker in asthma and other airway diseases. Our group has produced some of the leading research on exhaled nitric oxide, and we continue to work and publish in this field.


Ms Jan Cowan at work

Other research interests include several collaborations across Otago Medical School and beyond. Working with colleagues in the Department of Biochemistry, we are investigating gene expression in antibiotic-resistant bacteria in patients with cystic fibrosis. We are collaborating with colleagues in the Department of General Practice and Rural Health to explore how best to deliver health care for patients with severe chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). We are also working with colleagues in the Pharmacoepidemiology Research Network on the use and safety of medications in patients with COPD.

Our unit is also involved in commercial pharmaceutical studies. In recent years, we have undertaken studies in asthma, COPD, bronchiectasis, cystic fibrosis, and interstitial lung disease.

Research opportunities for students

Four PhD students have studied with us in the last fifteen years, as well as Masters and Bachelor of Science students. We welcome enquiries for postgraduate and undergraduate study, and summer studentships.


Staff in the Otago Respiratory Research Unit

Dr Ben Brockway Consultant and Senior Lecturer in Respiratory Medicine

Dr Jack Dummer Consultant and Senior Lecturer in Respiratory Medicine

Emeritus Professor Robin Taylor Emeritus Professor in Respiratory Medicine

Dr Colin Wong Clinical Senior Lecturer

Ms Jan Cowan Research Manager

Rebecca Mackenzie Research Nurse

Select publications

  • Amer, M., Cowan, J., Gray, A., Brockway, B., & Dummer, J. (2016). Effect of inhaled β2-agonist on exhaled nitric oxide in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. PLoS ONE, 11(6), e0157019. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0157019
  • Cowan, D. C., Taylor, D. R., Peterson, L. E., Cowan, J. O., Palmay, R., Williamson, A., … Comhair, S. A. A. (2015). Biomarker-based asthma phenotypes of corticosteroid response. Journal of Allergy & Clinical Immunology, 135(4), 877-883.e1. doi: 10.1016/j.jaci.2014.10.026
  • Piccolo, F., Pitman, N., Bhatnagar, R., Popowicz, N., Smith, N. A., Brockway, B., … Lee, Y. C. G. (2014). Intrapleural tissue plasminogen activator and deoxyribonuclease for pleural infection: An effective and safe alternative to surgery. Annals of the American Thoracic Society, 11(9), 1419-1425. doi: 10.1513/AnnalsATS.201407-329OC
  • Powell, H., Murphy, V. E., Taylor, D. R., Hensley, M. J., McCaffery, K., Giles, W., Clifton, V. L., & Gibson, P. G. (2011). Management of asthma in pregnancy guided by measurement of fraction of exhaled nitric oxide: A double-blind, randomised controlled trial. Lancet, 378, 983-990. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(11)60971-9
  • Dummer, J. F., Epton, M. J., Cowan, J. O., Cook, J. M., Condliffe, R., Landhuis, C. E., Smith, A. D., & Taylor, D. R. (2009). Predicting corticosteroid response in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease using exhaled nitric oxide. American Journal of Respiratory & Critical Care Medicine, 180(9), 846-852. doi: 10.1164/rccm.200905-0685OC
  • Smith, A. D., Cowan, J. O., Brassett, K. P., Herbison, G. P., & Taylor, D. R. (2005). Use of exhaled nitric oxide measurements to guide treatment in chronic asthma. New England Journal of Medicine, 352(21), 2163-2173. doi:10.1056/NEJMoa043596

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