Asthma is a new global challenge for medical research. There will be over 400million people with asthma globally by 2025, yet there is still no single, accurate and cost effective diagnostic test for asthma and many people with asthma do not respond to currently available treatments. These represent a vast unmet need that can only be met through greater investment in research.
New techniques and technologies are driving advances in diagnostics, genomics and biomedical sciences that put the solutions to these challenges within reach. This not only has the possibility to revolutionise the way that asthma is treated; it also represents an opportunity to establish the UK as the leading global centre for asthma research that could significantly contribute to the UK’s growing life sciences sector.
The north of England is particularly important in this respect. It is home to the North West eHealth Initiative and the Salford Lung Study, amongst many other leading initiatives. To explore opportunities for growth and to stimulate collaboration, Asthma UK recently hosted an event in partnership with the Northern Health Science Alliance in Manchester, which brought together a diverse group of leading experts from the academic community. Delegates explored how the region might capitalise on this opportunity to drive investment in asthma R&D and how it might lead the way in the UK’s drive to become the global leader in research.
The core theme running through the day was the critical role of collaboration in stimulating this transformational and ambitious agenda. Innovation won’t succeed in isolation, and there is a strong appetite for more coordinated research across the north of England across every part of the innovation cycle.
Yet questions remain about the best way to enable these collaborative models to emerge. Who can provide the necessary leadership to stimulate research for global societal challenges? Are the right structures and incentives in place to facilitate successful research partnerships? What role should the Government play as an innovation enabler?
The north holds the critical elements for meeting the global challenge of asthma; these questions must be addressed if it is to meet its potential.
Dr Samantha Walker
Asthma UK Director of Research and Policy
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