NIHR: Better Targeting of Treatment for People with Severe Allergic Asthma

LONDON–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Around five million people in the UK are currently being treated for
asthma. Of these, a quarter of a million are unable to get good control
of their condition, resulting in frequent, severe, or even
life-threatening attacks. A new study brings hope to these patients by
investigating whether the drug omalizumab can be better targeted.

The study is being run by the National Institute for Health Research
(NIHR) Translational Research Partnership with support from global
pharmaceutical company Novartis. It will investigate whether the
antibody treatment omalizumab could be targeted at those people with
severe asthma who will benefit most. Omalizumab is an approved therapy
for people who do not respond to taking steroid treatment with
long-acting reliever medication. It is hoped that better targeting 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 into omalizumab is enabling researchers to identify which
biomarkers are changed by the treatment. This should make it possible to
quickly identify those patients who will get the most benefit from
omalizumab treatment, giving them relief from severe symptoms. The NIHR
Translational Research Partnership, which brings together the country’s
leading investigators working in inflammatory respiratory disease, has
made it possible to carry out this in-depth biomarker research with this
group of severe asthma patients. The study was developed by the NIHR
Southampton Respiratory Biomedical Research Unit and is being managed by
the NIHR funded Clinical Trials Unit at the University of Southampton.

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.”

Study lead Professor Ratko Djukanovic, from University Hospital
Southampton and the University of Southampton, 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 Partnership.”

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


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Lucy Embleton, 01206 332110