Centre for Inflammation Research

Professor William MacNee

Professor MacNee's primary research interests are in pathological mechanisms of the lung and systemic effects of COPD.

Bill MacNee

Emeritus Professor and Respiratory Consultant

  • The Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh
  • Department of Respiratory Medicine

Contact details

Group Members

  • Dr Gourab Choudhury, Respiratory Consultant, Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh
  • Dr Roberto Rabinovich, LAS Respiratory Department, Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh
  • Dr Ellen Drost, Senior Postdoc Research Fellow, MRC Centre for Inflammation Research
  • Leandro Mantoani, PhD student, University of Edinburgh
  • Andrew Deans, Research Nurse, Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh
  • Susie Ferguson, Research Nurse, Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh


I began my research career as an MRC Research Fellow with the late Professor D C Flenley, studying the causes and consequences of pulmonary hypertension in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). This included studies of the hypoxic drive to breathing, lung mechanics and a large clinicopathological study of small airways disease and emphysema in patients undergoing lung resection. It was from these studies that a new method of diagnosing and quantifying pulmonary emphysema in life was developed, by correlating measurements of lung tissue density, using CT scanning, with quantitative pathological measurements of emphysema in resected lungs, in collaboration with Dr D Lamb (Reader, Department of Pathology, Royal Infirmary of  Edinburgh). This technique has now become accepted internationally as a method of quantifying emphysema.

Research Overview

Current research continues on the study of pathogenic mechanisms in COPD.  In particular we have been studying the mechanisms of systemic effects of COPD, both the mechanisms related to the increased cardiovascular risk in COPD and the muscle dysfunction in COPD.  These studies involve both in vivo studies in COPD patients assessing endothelial function and changes in muscle function and in vitro studies using cells obtained from COPD subjects.

Biographical Profile

William MacNee received his medical degree and MD from the University of Glasgow and trained thereafter in the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh/University of Edinburgh medical school.  He received an MRC travelling fellowship in the University of British Columbia, St Paul’s Hospital Vancouver.  Currently he is Professor of Respiratory and Environmental Medicine, University of Edinburgh, and Honorary Consultant Physician, Lothian Health.  He is a past Chair of the Scientific Committee of the European Respiratory Society (ERS) and past ERS President.  He has served on the British Thoracic Society COPD guideline committee, was co chair of the ERS/ATS COPD guidelines committee and a past member of the GOLD executive committee.  He has been an associate editor of the European Respiratory Journal and the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.  His primary research interests are in pathological mechanisms of the lung and systemic effects of COPD, and he also has an interest in the mechanisms of the harmful effects of environmental pollutants.  Professor MacNee has published over 380 peer reviewed papers, and edited several books on COPD.

Honours and Awards

  • MD (With Honours) - 1986  (Thesis entitled "Right Ventricular Function in Chronic Bronchitis and Emphysema" )
  • MRCP (UK) 1978
  • FRCP (Glasgow) 1989
  • FRCP (Edinburgh) 1990


  • Dr Joy Janet Miller (MD), Respiratory Medicine, Aberdeen Royal Infirmary
  • Dr David McAllister (MD), Senior Clinical Lecturer/Honorary Consultant (Public Health), University of Glasgow
  • Dr John Maclay (MD), Respiratory medicine - NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde
  • Dr Lisette Romme (PhD), Resident Respiratory Medicine, Catharina Hospital Eindhoven