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The University of Southampton

Southampton scientists forge strategic partnership with AstraZeneca to study respiratory disease

Published: 25 April 2016
New partnership with AstraZeneca
New study into Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease

Respiratory scientists at the University of Southampton and AstraZeneca Innovative Medicines in Gothenburg, Sweden, have agreed to work together, in a multiyear collaboration, to investigate differences in gene expression that drive the innate immune response to viral infection in Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).

COPD is the fourth most common cause of death and the only one of the common causes that is still rising. The disease is characterised by periods of worsening symptoms that hasten COPD progression and contributing to the mortality, morbidity and health care costs associated with the disease. These periods are largely driven by viruses such as rhinovirus and influenza, but why these viruses cause a worsening of COPD symptoms is unknown.

Based in the state-of-the-art Wessex Investigational Sciences Hub (WISH), University scientists will culture lung cells from COPD patients before infecting the cells with respiratory viruses and measuring responses. Collaborators at AstraZeneca will also perform RNASeq analysis, a means of identifying differentially expressed genes, to discover fundamental differences between COPD patients and individuals without the disease.

Dr Tom Wilkinson, Associate Professor of Respiratory Medicine and Lead for COPD research at the University of Southampton, said: “Despite rising death rates, there is a real lack of treatments for COPD which affect progression of disease and very few of the drugs we have impact on virus-induced disease exacerbations. This important collaboration confirms Southampton’s place as a leading centre for the identification of new mechanisms of disease in COPD and airway infection. Improvements in our understanding delivered by this collaboration with AZ will identify new targets which will provide the basis for potential development of a new generation of therapies which are greatly needed for our patients.”

Professor Outi Vaarala, Vice President of Respiratory, Inflammation and Autoimmunity Innovative Medicines at AstraZeneca said: “This is a strategically important collaboration for AstraZeneca as it will provide ground-breaking insights into key mechanisms which are fundamental to the development and progression of COPD. The understanding of these mechanisms is crucial for the identification of innovative drug targets and biomarkers for patient stratification."

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