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The University of Southampton

New trial to improve treatment for severe asthma patients

Published: 14 March 2016
New asthma study
New trial to improve treatment for severe asthma patients

Researchers in Southampton are to investigate whether a well-used asthma drug could be better targeted at people who suffer from severe asthma.

The study, developed by the National Institute for Health Research Southampton Respiratory Biomedical Research Unit and managed by the NIHR funded Clinical Trials Unit at the University of Southampton, will study the mechanisms of action of the antibody treatment omalizumab (XolairR), an approved therapy for people who have severe asthma that do not respond sufficiently well to taking steroid treatment with long-acting reliever medication.

The research, led by Professor Ratko Djukanovic , from Southampton General Hospital and the University of Southampton, hopes to identify a number of useful biomarkers which will enable better selection of patients for this treatment. It is hoped that better targeting of treatment could save both lives and money in the NHS. It is important to individual patients to know whether the drug, which is given by injection, is likely to work for them.

The study is coordinated nationally by the NIHR Translational Research Partnership , with support from global pharmaceutical company Novartis.

Professor Djukanovic said: “Finding better therapeutic approaches for people with severe asthma remains a real unmet health need. Omalizumab is an effective and widely used treatment for this group of patients and it is important to be able to predict which patients are likely to get maximum benefit from it. This new study should help identify the biomarkers that will help us to target this treatment more effectively. It is using sophisticated state-of-the-art laboratory technologies and builds on the collaborative spirit we have developed in the Translational Research Partnership.”

Life Sciences Minister George Freeman MP said: “Severe asthma has a huge impact on people's lives, so by targeting treatments more effectively it will not only support patients but make better use of NHS resources.

“We invest over £1 billion each year in the National Institute for Health Research which is helping us to better understand these treatments. It is great news that Novartis has teamed up with the NIHR's expert researchers to ensure that the right treatment is given to the right patient at the right time.”

Mark Samuels from the NIHR's Office for Clinical Research Infrastructure, which runs the Translational Research Partnership, said: “With around five million people suffering from asthma in the UK, it is something we can all relate to. We are collaborating with the life sciences industry to beat debilitating illnesses that affect so many of us. Our experts are working closely with companies to bring new treatments to patients faster for a range of inflammatory diseases. This is yet another example of global pharma recognising that Britain has some of the world's best research talent and expertise.”

The study brings together some of the UK's leading asthma researchers across 14 research centres and will recruit 200 patients. It uses novel data from U-BIOPRED, a major Europe-wide research programme establishing innovative testing methods to classify patients into distinct severe asthma types and speed up the development of better treatments for patients with severe asthma. The Translational Research Partnership was a key driver to apply the biomarkers discovered in U-BIOPRED in this new study.

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