IHU RespirERA Respiratory Health, Environment and Ageing


The IHU RespirERA (Respiratory Health, EnviRonment and Ageing) is a collective project structuring the Nice Sophia Antipolis medical-scientific community around a single pathology centred on respiratory diseases.

Spearheaded by Prof. Paul Hofman, Head of the Clinical and Molecular Pathology Department and Director of an Inserm Unitworking onlung cancer, in particular biological screening, it is supported by 4 founding members: Nice University Hospital, the Université Côte d’Azur, INRIA and INSERM.

This project was born out of a reflection on Nice’s ecosystem and its people. The population of Nice is made up of elderly people (over a third of whom are aged over 65).

This population naturally includes patients with cancerous and non-cancerous respiratory diseases. It is also a particular environmental ecosystem, with air pollution that can be very marked during the summer months, and particularly associated with worrying global warming.


Equipe médico-scientifique avant initié le projet de l'IHU RepirERA. De gauche à droite : Dr Pascal Barbry, Pr Marius Ilié, Pr Charles-Hugo Marquette, Pr Paul Hofman, Dr Nicholas Ayache, Pr Sylvie Leroy, et Dr Hervé Delingette. Photo © F. lefeuvre

Equipe médico-scientifique avant initié le projet de l’IHU RepirERA. De gauche à droite : Dr Pascal Barbry, Pr Marius Ilié, Pr Charles-Hugo Marquette, Pr Paul Hofman, Dr Nicholas Ayache, Pr Sylvie Leroy, et Dr Hervé Delingette. Photo © F. lefeuvre


In this way, the Nice region can become a living laboratory for experimentation on the increased emergence of respiratory diseases associated with age and environmental exposure, reflecting, by anticipation, the national and European epidemiology of the years to come.

Nice already has widely-recognised expertise in this field:

  • 14 internationally renowned Inserm and CNRS fundamental, translational and clinical research laboratories working in the field of respiratory diseases.
  • The respirology departments of Professors Charles Hugo Marquette and Sylvie Leroy are at the cutting edge of the latest innovations in clinical care.
  • Professor Paul Hofman’s Department of Clinical and Molecular Pathology spearheads biotechnological innovation, with a laboratory designated as a “laboratory of excellence in pulmonary molecular pathology” by the French Ministry of Health. The Nice University Hospital laboratory is thus a unique model of diagnostic and molecular management based on tissues and blood, paving the way for a unique model of integrative pathology.
  • Finally, the presence of a centre of excellence in Artificial Intelligence with Inria and the 3 IA at Sophia Antipolis will encourage the development of tomorrow’s decision-making algorithms in the field of lung health.
  • The fact that this project is part of the multidisciplinary Université Côte d’Azur IDEX provides considerable advantages for the short-term success of this IHU.

The ambition of the RespirERA IHU is to set up a “real-life” system to better combat the respiratory pathologies present in the region, taking into account the general context of accelerating environmental degradation (global warming, atmospheric pollution, allergens, emergence/impact of respiratory viruses).

In the medium term, this model, which places the patient and the population at the heart of the project, should focus on the development of systems for prevention, monitoring, vigilance and early care, with the particular aim of curbing the impact of these diseases on the healthcare system.

Against this epidemiological backdrop, there is an urgent need to:

  • Identify the pathophysiological mechanisms that lead from cellular and pulmonary senescence to the development of precancerous diseases.
  • Identify the mechanisms by which these precancerous diseases transform into lung cancer.

Improved pathophysiological knowledge should enable us to:

  • better prevent the onset of these diseases
  • Identify them early
  • slow their development
  • Treat them more effectively
  • Create and project an in vitro model of lung senescence

With the aim of becoming a French pioneer on an international scale, the Nice IHU will host a unique project to gain a better understanding of the mechanisms behind the respiratory diseases mentioned above, develop innovative therapeutic and diagnostic tools, treat patients more effectively and pass on the know-how acquired to excellent training courses.

The project will bring together teachers, clinicians, researchers and industrialists from national and international pharmaceutical and biotech companies, as well as patient groups, to better meet their needs.

Work on care and prevention will focus on :

  • Improving the management of respiratory diseases.
  • Setting up phase I therapeutic trials, particularly for fibrosing or neoplastic respiratory diseases;
  • Involving “expert elderly patients” with respiratory diseases and patient associations;
  • Experimenting with a new approach to connected health, and putting it into practice in target populations, in conjunction with the liberal and hospital sectors;
  • The development of personalized prevention programs by better anticipating the consequences of environmental changes and exogenous factors on respiratory health (air pollution, global warming, changes in allergens, new emerging epidemics, synergies with lifestyle habits such as smoking exposure);
  • The creation of a socio-economic model for the management of chronic respiratory diseases, to reduce the budgetary impact of care, while optimizing the quality of care and patient comfort.