• Room 04.037 - Medical Biology Centre

    United Kingdom

Accepting PhD Students

PhD projects

Professor Power is open to PhD applications from candidates with a basic or clinical background. His fields of interest include: - virus/host interactions, with particular interest in respiratory viruses, such as RSV - virus vaccine vectors - primary airway epithelium cultures, in particular well-differentiated air-liquid interface cultures

1985 …2020

Research output per year

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Personal profile

Research Statement


Human respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is the leading cause of bronchiolitis and pneumonia in infants worldwide and also causes considerable morbidity and mortality in the elderly and immunecompromised individuals. Re-infections are common throughout life. Despite more than 50 years of research there are no vaccines or specific therapeutics against RSV. Importantly, the mechanisms by which RSV causes disease in humans remain poorly understood. 

The Power group has developed models of RSV infection based on well-differentiated primary paediatric airway epithelial cell cultures (WD-PAEC), the primary targets of RSV infection in vivo. These cultures are derived from both bronchial and nasal brushes of airway epithelium in ethically approved protocols. Our RSV/WD-PAEC model derived from bronchial epithelium demonstrated remarkable similarities to hallmarks of RSV infection in infant lungs, both at the cellular and molecular levels. This research indicated that our model provides an authentic surrogate for RSV infection of lower airway epithelium in vivo. Similarly, our RSV/WD-PAEC model derived from nasal epithelium provided the means to comprehensively study RSV infection in authentic paediatric upper respiratory tract epithelium tissue. Our exploitation of these models has provided several novel insights into the consequences of RSV infection of paediatric airway epithelial cells that are the basis of ongoing research. In particular, using nasal-derived WD-PAECs from cohorts of infants with defined histories of severe and mild RSV disease, respectively, we have generated data identifying potential gene biomarkers of severe RSV disease in infants and are currently validating them. 

We are confident that these models will provide insights into RSV pathogenesis in humans that ultimately lead to successful RSV vaccines and/or therapeutics. Be extension, we expect that they will also provide the basis for authentic pre-clinical models to test novel anti-RSV therapeutics. 

Although our models are based on RSV infections, these cultures will be undoubtedly adaptable to studying the molecular pathogenesis of other important respiratory viruses, such as influenza virus and human parainfluenza viruses. Indeed, by way of comparison with RSV, we have extensively characterised the consequences of WD-PAEC infection with Sendai virus, a murine parainfluenza virus type 1 (mPIV1) that is considered non-pathogenic in humans. Sendai virus is of interest to us and others as a live attenuated viral vaccine vector for RSV antigens. As such, studying its interaction with WD-PAECs provided novel insights into the cytopathogenesis of Sendai virus in paediatric airway epithelial cells. 

This research programme is the result of highly productive collaboration with Prof. Mike Shields and members of the Respiratory Research Cluster at QUB. It has attracted substantial peer-reviewed research funding from local and national funding agencies, as well as substantial research investment from international pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies.


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Research Output

Comparative primary paediatric nasal epithelial cell culture differentiation and RSV-induced cytopathogenesis following culture in two commercial media.

Broadbent, L., Manzoor, S., Zarcone, M. C., Barabas, J., Shields, M., Saglani, S., Lloyde, C. M., Bush, A., Custovic, A., Ghazal, P., Gore, M., Marsland, B., Roberts, G., Schwarze, J., Turner, S. & Power, U., 06 Mar 2020, (Accepted) In : PLoS One.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  • Airway surface liquid has innate antiviral activity that is reduced in cystic fibrosis

    Berkebile, A. R., Bartlett, J. A., Alaiwa, M. A., Varga, S. M., Power, U. & McCray, P. B., 26 Jun 2019, In : American Journal of Respiratory Cell and Molecular Biology.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    Open Access
  • 136 Downloads (Pure)

    Original Antigenic Sin and Respiratory Syncytial Virus Vaccines

    Tripp, R. & Power, U., 06 Sep 2019, In : Vaccines. 7, 6 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    Open Access
  • 36 Downloads (Pure)


  • Postgraduate Supervisory Excellence Award 2016

    Ultan Power (Recipient), 24 May 2016

    Prize: Prize (including medals and awards)

  • Activities

    RSV and airway epithelium - identification of molecular factors potentially implicated in severe disease.

    Ultan Power (Invited speaker)
    11 Nov 201814 Nov 2018

    Activity: Talk or presentation typesInvited talk

    11th International Respiratory Syncytial Virus Symposium.

    Ultan Power (International committee member)
    31 Oct 201804 Nov 2018

    Activity: Participating in or organising an event typesParticipation in conference

    External Examiner MSc by Research, University of Edinburgh

    Ultan Power (Examiner)
    10 Oct 201801 Dec 2018

    Activity: Examination typesOther examination

    Microbiology Society Annual Conference 2018

    Ultan Power (Contributor)
    10 Apr 201813 Apr 2018

    Activity: Participating in or organising an event typesParticipation in conference

    International Respiratory Syncytial Virus Society (IRSVS) (External organisation)

    Ultan Power (Chair)

    Activity: Membership typesMembership of national or international committees and working groups

    Press / Media

    Polio survivor group talks of legacy and a new battle.

    Ultan Power


    1 Media contribution

    Press/Media: Public Engagement Activities

    1966 Failed RSV Vaccine Finally Explained

    Ultan Power


    1 Media contribution

    Press/Media: Expert Comment

    Vaccine failure explained.

    Ultan Power


    1 Media contribution

    Press/Media: Expert Comment


    Elucidation of the roles of PTN and ISG15 in RSV cytopathogenesis: possible biomarkers of severe disease?

    Author: Groves, H., Jun 2018

    Supervisor: Power, U. (Supervisor) & Shields, M. (Supervisor)

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy