A new study developed by researchers at the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Southampton Respiratory Biomedical Research Unit in England and managed by the NIHR-funded Clinical Trials Unit at the University of Southampton will investigate whether omalizumab (XolairR), a well-known and frequently used asthma drug, could be better targeted at people who suffer from severe asthma and do not respond sufficiently to high doses of corticosteroid treatment with long-acting reliever medication.
The study, headed by Prof. Ratko Djukanovic from Southampton General Hospital and the University of Southampton, will examine the mechanism of action of omalizumab, a humanized antibody originally designed to reduce the sensitivity to inhaled or ingested allergens. The drug has been approved for the treatment of adult and adolescent patients ages 12 and older with severe or moderate allergic asthma in more than 90 countries.
Researchers are hoping to identify useful biomarkers that will enable a better selection of patients suitable for treatment with omalizumab, which is administered by injection. Better targeting of patients for this treatment could save both lives and money in the National Health Service (NHS).
The research team, which brings together some of the U.K.’s leading asthma experts, will be supported by Novartis and coordinated nationally by the NIHR Translational Research Partnership.
“Finding better therapeutic approaches for people with severe asthma remains a real unmet health need,” Djukanovic said in a University of Southampton news release. “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,” Djukanovic 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,” added Life Sciences Minister George Freeman MP of the United Kingdom. “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, agreed.
“With around five million people suffering from asthma in the UK, it is something we can all relate to,” he said. “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 recognizing that Britain has some of the world’s best research talent and expertise.”
The study will recruit 200 patients across 14 research sites, and will use novel data from U-BIOPRED (Unbiased BIOmarkers in PREDiction of respiratory disease outcomes), a European research project using information and samples from adults and children to learn more about different types of asthma, to ensure better diagnosis and treatment for each person. The Translational Research Partnership was an important driver to apply the biomarkers discovered in U-BIOPRED in the new research.
Asthma can affect people of all ages. The most recent revised global estimate of asthma suggests that as many as 334 million people are afflicted with the condition, and the burden of disability is high.