Asthma UK's research priorities

The priority areas of research that we fund and partner on can be broadly divided into six areas.

Asthma UK’s research strategy will fund, support, and partner on projects that address one of 15 research priorities.

The full list of these 15 priorities can be seen on our Asthma Research Roadmap

The topics within these priority areas can be broadly divided into six themes, which is an easier way to think about the research that Asthma UK may support.

Asthma Biology

In order to develop new asthma treatments tailored to different types of asthma, we need to build an accurate understanding of the intricacies of the immune system and the underlying biology of asthma. It’s also crucial to understand how the lungs respond to triggers and infections, and to know about structural changes to the airways in order to prevent long-term lung damage. When symptoms become rapidly or wildly out of control, people can die from a fatal asthma exacerbation or attack. Despite best efforts, we still don’t fully understand what happens in the airways during an asthma attack and we need to understand what early-warning signs could help us identify and prevent an asthma attack in advance.

You can see the projects that we currently fund investigating the underlying biology of asthma. 


 Asthma Types

We know that all types of asthma are not the same, yet current treatments often adopt the same approach, meaning that they don’t work well for everybody. Delving deeper into the subtleties that characterise different individuals’ experiences of asthma (asthma phenotypes) is an essential step towards improving asthma control. We need to be able to differentiate between the various types of asthma in order to develop new and better-quality treatments which can then be targeted to those people who will benefit from them most.


 Asthma Treatments

Millions of people experience unnecessary asthma symptoms that could be avoided if better use were made of existing treatments and treatment programmes were tailored to individual challenges and needs. We also know that thousands of people in the UK experience constant, debilitating asthma symptoms because their lungs don’t respond to existing treatments such as steroids. To enable us to free them from asthma’s effects, we will fund research to develop better treatments, and repurpose existing treatments, which enable all people with asthma to manage their symptoms effectively, and maximise the benefits they get from treatment.

You can read about the projects that we currently fund working towards better treatments for asthma. 


 Asthma Management 

Regardless of how effective asthma treatments are, they will only work if people understand and appreciate their benefits and take them as prescribed. Although other challenges exist in asthma, psychological and lifestyle factors have an important part to play and we know that a number of complex barriers exist which unnecessarily limit the level of control most people have over their asthma and therefore their quality of life. In order to improve the way asthma is managed, we want to channel resources into research which gives us the information needed to empower and enable people to take control of their own asthma so they can live full and active lives.

You can read about research that we’re funding to improve the care that people with asthma receive. 


 Asthma Diagnosis

Currently there is no single diagnostic test for asthma. This means that asthma often goes unrecognised, putting patients’ lives at risk, while others may be taking treatments they don’t need. In order to ensure people with asthma get the right treatment and support for them, it’s crucial to find a way to definitively diagnose asthma in primary care, and help health professionals to monitor their patients’ level of asthma control. Building on recent developments in measuring lung function, we will fund research to develop quick and cost-effective tools to diagnose and monitor airway inflammation and asthma.

You can read about research that we’re funding to improve the way that asthma is diagnosed. 


 Asthma Prevention Our knowledge about when asthma starts, what causes it, and how our risk is influenced by our genes, lifestyle, exposure to infections and our home and working environments has steadily increased. Scientists are now better able to identify ways to protect people from developing asthma; however there are still gaps in our knowledge. We will support research which helps us to explicitly understand how to stop people from ever developing asthma or cure it if it does develop, meaning that people don’t need ongoing treatment or management to minimise symptoms. We will also channel resources to understand the relationship between different characteristics and behaviours which increase a person’s risk of experiencing a severe asthma attack, and ways to reduce the risk.