Severe asthma

Patients with severe asthma have difficulty breathing almost all of the time, and often have serious asthma attacks. We’re improving existing and developing new treatments to manage the condition.

Key investigator: Prof Peter Howarth

Key projects

We are developing new treatments for severe asthma to manage the symptoms, prevent asthma attacks and target the right treatment to the right patient.

Managing the condition

  • Our findings on existing and new asthma treatments have been adopted in UK and international guidelines for managing severe asthma.
  • In June 2014, a $220M deal saw UoS spin-out Synairgen's inhaled interferon beta (IFNβ) treatment, licenced to AstraZeneca to develop. This treatment was developed in collaboration with our BRU, and prevents severe asthma symptoms from worsening with viral infections, such as the common cold.
  • In collaboration with the US company Endostim-Ardmore HealthCare, we are investigating the impact of their novel pacemaker device on reducing gastro-oesophageal reflux in asthma patients.
  • An Asthma UK funded study is also being conducted to develop an adolescent-orientated approach to asthma management in teenagers.

Preventing asthma attacks

  • Asthma attacks can be triggered by the immune system responding to an allergen, causing lung inflammation and restricting breathing. We are developing and testing new compounds to prevent this immune response.
  • In patients sensitive to the house dust mite allergen, we are conducting a study to examine the impact of clopidogrel on reducing the asthmatic response to this allergen.
  • Following an initial pilot study, we are approaching various commercial groups to develop inhaled Mycophenolate Sodium as a treatment for immune activation and inflammation in asthma patients.

Targeting treatments to patients

  • Various factors determine how effective a particular treatment will be for a particular patient. We are investigating these factors to target the right treatment to the right asthma patient.
  • We are part of Unbiased Biomarkers for the Prediction of Respiratory Disease Outcomes (UBIOPRED), the world’s largest consortium aiming to develop methods to ensure respiratory patients receive the right treatment for them.
  • As part of this, we have been awarded £4 million by Novartis to identify specific sets of disease characteristics in asthma patients, producing ‘phenotype handprints’ that will enable better prediction of the effectiveness of a treatment for a particular patient.
  • As a member of the United Kingdom Refractory Asthma Stratification Programme (RASP-UK), we are investigating Omalizumab, which reduces sensitivity to allergens, as an alternative treatment for asthma patients who do not respond well to corticosteroid treatment.
  • RASP-UK includes universities, pharmaceutical companies and the charity Asthma UK, and is aiming to optimise corticosteroid treatment and identify alternative treatments for severe asthma patients.