Meet the Councilor | Alan Irvine, IEC President-Elect

This issue features IEC President-Elect Alan Irvine, MD, DSc. Dr. Irvine is a Professor of Dermatology at Trinity College Dublin, and a Consultant Dermatologist at Children’s Health Ireland, in Dublin Ireland.

What is your proudest accomplishment in the atopic dermatitis (AD) space to date?

On a research basis, I’m most proud of working on the identification of filaggrin mutations in the skin barrier of people with AD, which are a significant genetic risk factor for AD. The work served to focus on the relevance of skin barrier defects in AD, which lead on to a focus on innate immunity in the skin and skin resident immune defects. Identifying the filaggrin mutations yielded insights into the pathogenesis of AD, highlighting the contribution of the barrier defect, which can be inherited or acquired, along with aberrant local immune responses and an aberrant microbiome.

What do you value most about being involved with the IEC?

The IEC is a fantastic transnational organization where a melting pot of ideas, energy, and stimulation help focus research efforts to develop better treatments for AD and better understanding of the disease. It’s been a great energizing hub to bring together people from all areas around the globe, with different backgrounds, cultures, and mutually enhancing skill sets, to drive research into the condition and better outcomes for patients.

What do you think will garner the most attention over the coming year in the AD field?

A lot of new treatments are going through regulatory approval processes around the world, so we expect more advanced therapeutic options for people with moderate and severe disease by the end of this year and into the first half of 2022. We’re watching developments around new topical Janus kinase (JAK) inhibitors with great interest, which would provide topical options beyond the existing topical steroids, calcineurin inhibitors, and phosphodiesterase 4 inhibitors. We continue to learn more about the epidemiology of AD, comorbidities, and the burden of disease for patients and their families. The neuroimmune axis is fascinating, and we’re learning more about the interactions between the nervous system and immune system in the skin that will yield additional therapies for itch and skin inflammation in coming years.

IEC Councilors are involved across all those domains, from basic research, epidemiological research, clinical trials, to treatment. The IEC has very active research and education committees, which drive primary research, hopefully contributing to all these areas, as well as education of patients, families, and healthcare providers.

What do you see as the biggest need among AD patients?

What do you see as the biggest need among AD patients?
There’s still a significant unmet need for therapies for all degrees of disease—from mild, moderate, to severe—that can give patients largely symptom-free lives, particularly around itch and sleep. That said, there’s a huge amount of promise that the unmet need can be matched in the near future.