A cure for asthma could be only a generation away if greater international research collaboration and investment based on recent scientific breakthroughs are undertaken, according to papers published in the acclaimed European Respiratory Journal today (World Asthma Day) by Europe’s top asthma experts.
For the first time, scientists from across Europe, working with the pharmaceutical industry (GSK and Novartis) and patient groups, have mapped out all the mechanisms of asthma and assembled a cutting-edge review of current knowledge and a series of recommendations. This is a significant step forward in understanding the many different types of asthma so that a cure can be found for each one. Asthma has for a long time been incorrectly regarded as one condition regardless of the severity and symptoms.
This work was done as part of the European Asthma Research and Innovation Partnership (EARIP), a European Commission -funded programme carried out over a three-year period (2014-16). Different working groups carried out extensive literature reviews and a series of Europe-wide consultations to develop a state-of-the-art review of the science and a roadmap of the 15 most important research and development priorities. If funded and delivered, deaths could be reduced by 25% within the next 10 years.
Professor Sebastian Johnston, lead author of the mechanisms paper and Professor of Respiratory Medicine & Allergy at the National Heart and Lung Institute, Imperial College London, said: “Ten years ago we could never have imagined talking about potential cures being so close. Having mapped all the mechanics of asthma we now have a much clearer picture of the research that needs to be done, so that we could be looking at cures for many types of asthma within a generation.”
Professor Sven-Erik Dahlén, EARIP partner and Professor of Asthma and Allergy Research at the Karolinska Institutet, Sweden, said: “For the first time ever, we have a robust, internationally agreed, ambitious roadmap for research, development and innovation that could transform the lives of more than 300 million people who currently have asthma around the world.
“Asthma is already a global epidemic and it is predicted that prevalence could increase to 400 million by 2025. We are now calling for funders, research commissioners, institutes and industry to adopt the priorities to help achieve our ambitions to eradicate asthma.”
Dr Samantha Walker, Co-ordinator of the EARIP project and co-author on three papers, said: “This was an incredibly thorough, comprehensive, scientifically sound project that involved many hundreds of contributors and which was designed to guide European research funding for decades to come. We hope that those who have the power and opportunity to address these priorities will join together to fund and deliver the necessary research to cure and prevent asthma for future generations”.
Notes to editors:
For more information, please contact Maria Lam at Asthma UK on firstname.lastname@example.org or 07460 689059. Out of hours mobile 07951 721393.
 Some of the different types of asthma are:
- Occupational asthma
- Difficult to control and severe asthma
- Adult onset asthma
- Childhood asthma
- Seasonal asthma
EARIP is a co-ordinated and integrated approach to asthma research, development and innovation across Europe. The project activities range from basic cell science research to assessing and improving European healthcare systems. Supported by the European Commission and run over a three-year period, EARIP will bring together asthma experts from across Europe to define what’s needed to reduce asthma deaths and hospitalisations in all EU member states.
EARIP partners: Asthma UK; Imperial College London, Karolinska Institutet, Sweden; European Federation of Allergy & Airways Diseases Patients Associations (EFA), Belgium; European Lung Foundation; National and Kapodistrian University of Athens; University of Southampton; Swiss Institute of Allergy and Asthma Research, Switzerland; University of Lodz, Poland; Novartis, Switzerland; GlaxoSmithKline, UK; Arrixaca Biohealth Research Institute of Murcia (IMIB)
EARIP’s 15 research priorities
1. Identify, classify and improve understanding of the different forms of asthma.
2. Build and develop patient and healthcare professional relationships to improve self-management.
3. Understand the effects of childhood infections and the long-term effects of treatments.
4. Assess and adopt best practice across national and European asthma programmes and clinics.
5. Develop new treatments for the different types of asthma.
6. Develop tools for quick, accurate and cost-effective asthma diagnosis.
7. Evaluate self-management and education needs of patients and carers.
8. Evaluate the role of lung function testing.
9. Identify biomarkers for worsening symptoms.
10. Understand the increase in asthma.
11. Assess the efficacy of existing and new drugs.
12. Develop tools to assess asthma self-management and asthma inhaler technique.
13. Explore asthma with socio-economic and psychological factors.
14. Investigate the impact of environmental factors such as air quality, climate and allergens.
15. Understand the impact of exposure to known asthma triggers and strategies to control this exposure.