£70 million initiative to personalise autoimmune, inflammation and allergy treatment

Managing severe asthma

Southampton researchers are set to be part of a €80 million (£70 million) initiative aiming to better target treatments for the millions worldwide living with autoimmune, inflammatory or allergic diseases.

Autoimmune, inflammatory and allergic diseases impact the wellbeing of millions of people around the globe, placing major cost and resource strains on healthcare systems. Although many different treatments are available, each person’s response varies greatly and is unpredictable, with too little known about these conditions at the molecular level.

Now 3TR, a world-first public-private initiative, aims to identify new ‘biomarkers’ (molecules associated with a disease or response to treatment) and molecular pathways, to predict and measure peoples’ responses to different treatments for seven different diseases.

Seeing the big picture

3TR brings together experts from across medical disciplines, profiling technology, systems biology and bioinformatics, plus specialists from innovative bioscience firms and leading pharmaceutical companies.

Together they will work to better understand the molecular basis of systemic lupus erythematosus, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, inflammatory bowel disease (including ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease), asthma, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Recent studies have shown that certain patterns at the molecular level are shared by people living with these different diseases, suggesting they may also share common responses to treatments and patterns of disease progression.

“By working with large numbers of new patients across Europe, combining their medical records, molecular and microbiological profiles with data from patients already part of research data, 3TR will give us a picture big enough and detailed enough to unpick what predicts disease progression and treatment response,” explains Professor Ratko Djukanovic, respiratory consultant and Southampton co-lead for the study.

Predicting if drugs will work

All data will be gathered on a central system, allowing detailed and comprehensive analysis for new molecular patterns and pathways using state-of-the-art bioinformatics and biostatistics methods. Through close working with clinical services and patient groups, 3TR aims to rapidly translate this knowledge and project outcomes into clinical benefit.

“Treatment is currently very much on a trial-and-error basis, informed by a doctor’s experience, that presents challenges for their wellbeing and for managing progression of their symptoms. 3TR offers the prospect of evidence-based tests that accurately predict whether a drug will work for someone or not,” comments Professor Graham Roberts, consultant in paediatric allergy and Southampton co-lead for the study.

Posted on Tuesday 29 October 2019