How we began

Asthma UK has a long history, stretching all the way back to 1927, when the Asthma Research Council was founded after the Earl of Limerick wrote to The Times. 

His letter drew attention to the distress and suffering caused by asthma and called for the establishment of an organisation that would research into the "cause and cure of asthma from a firm scientific foundation". At the time, there were estimated to be around 200,000 people in the UK with asthma. [1]

Early days

Once the Council was established, a programme of research was drawn up, with an initial annual income of between £1,000 and £4,000 a year (the equivalent of £50,000 to £200,000 today).

The first donations were used to establish a special asthma clinic at Guys Hospital and Great Ormond Street Hospital and further research clinics were later established at other London hospitals and other UK cities. [2]

Similar to today, asthma research in the early years focused on hereditary, allergy and environmental factors.

What's in a name?

In 1972, the Friends of the Asthma Research Council was set up to help raise money for the Research Council's work. But it was obvious that people with asthma needed support and information to manage their condition, so in 1980 the Friends started also providing education and support.

Over the next 20 years, the two organisations went through several name changes, merging in 1989 to become the National Asthma Campaign, which then became Asthma UK in 2004.

Highlights of nearly a century

We've invested hugely in research since we began all those years ago, spending more than £50 million on it in just the past 25 years. We've also reached millions of people with life-saving advice and support.

Our scientists have discovered genes, molecules and cells involved in asthma, so that we now know more about this complex condition than ever before.

In 1989, Professor William Cookson and his team published the first genetic link to asthma and a number of asthma researchers have continued to study the genes involved in asthma and allergy.

Asthma UK scientists have also made major breakthroughs resulting in the development of new treatments that could ultimately benefit millions of people across the UK. These include flu vaccines for severe asthma, tablets for allergies and improving approaches for immunotherapy, which can have long lasting beneficial effects for people with allergic asthma.

Looking forward

Our strategy for 2014-17, has one overarching goal: to reduce the risk asthma attacks. Going forward, all our work will be focused around this goal, whether it's funding world leading research and scientists, campaigning for change or supporting people with asthma to reduce their risk of a potentially life threatening asthma attack.

[1] The Times, December 1928

[2] Daily Express, 18 December, 1928. New war on asthma: Fund to be raised for research clinics.