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The University of Southampton

Transforming asthma control and survival

Research at the University of Southampton has been central to the development and international licensing of the therapy omalizumab, one of only two novel asthma therapies in the last 30 years, transforming asthma control and survival for severe allergic asthmatics. Key studies have underpinned the development of this vital therapy for controlling allergic asthma, with the Southampton-led first-in-man trials critical to its registration.

Research Challenge

For many of those with severe, persistent allergic asthma, standard therapy provides only limited control. This severe group are at the highest risk of mortality amongst the three to four million children and adults with allergic asthma in the UK and therapeutic options for control of their condition are constrained.


Conventional long-term, high dose steroid therapy regimens provide restricted control with impacts on bone mineralisation and growth, particularly in children. These regimens only demonstrate equivocal improvements in efficacy in a small subset of severe patients.

Our solution

Following initial studies our research team became the first to demonstrate the safety and bioactivity of omalizumab therapy in man. The drug is a new monoclonal antibody that targets and depletes the asthma-inducing molecule called IgE. These trials showed that the new treatment resulted in significant improvements in symptoms of severe allergic asthma and provided evidence for the new drug’s registration.

A 60% success responded rate in patients with severe allergic asthma indicated in post-hoc analysis now forms the basis of guidelines on the new therapy’s use.

What was the impact?

Southampton research has been central to the development of omalizumab and transformed control and survival prospects for severe allergic asthmatics, reducing hospitalisations, improving lung function and increasing quality of life.

Our evaluation of response status forms the basis of a standardised assessment framework now included in healthcare guidance approved for use in the UK by NICE.

This body of work has been critical to major inward investment, including the location of a new research unit in the UK, and stimulated significant wider development.

Our research has transformed control and survival prospects for severe allergic asthmatics
Pioneering asthma research

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