Research projects we're involved in

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Unbiased Biomarkers in Prediction of respiratory disease outcomes: The U-BIOPRED project

The Unbiased Biomarkers for the Prediction of Respiratory Disease Outcomes (U-BIOPRED) project is a European project investigating severe asthma.

Asthma UK are involved in a large project called U-BIOPRED through the involvement of people with asthma, utilising the skills and experiences of our Research and Policy volunteers to impact on a project with the potential to change the way that people with severe asthma receive treatment in the future.

U-BIOPRED stands for 'Unbiased Biomarkers for the Prediction of Respiratory Disease Outcomes'. This is the technical name for the 5-year project (2010-2015), which aims:

  • to understand more about severe asthma
  • to determine how it differs from person to person
  • to uncover new information and ideas that could lead to the creation of effective new treatments
  • To achieve this UBIOPRED has brought together scientists from universities, research institutes, the pharmaceutical industry and small companies all across Europe.

Many people with severe asthma don't respond very well to currently available treatments, and researchers and healthcare professionals think that asthma isn't actually one condition and isn't the same in everyone with it although the symptoms may be similar. By investigating closer there should be things that we can measure, for example through blood tests or analysis of breath, that can help us to put people with severe asthma into different 'categories'. This will then help us with the development of future treatments as:

a) from the things that we measure we'll understand more about what's going on in people's lungs and can use this to develop better treatments;
b) we'll be able to test the right potential treatment on the right people to see if it works; and
c) we'll eventually have a range of different treatments and will be able to design someone's treatment based on the type of asthma that they have.

Our volunteers have taken the perspective of people with asthma to the research project, ensuring that it's realistic and always focuses on the benefits for people with asthma.

The project is now coming to an end and has resulted in the development of a 'handprint' for different types of severe asthma that people can be categorised to have.

The real test will come now, as this system is used to categorise people with asthma to better understand their asthma, and in clinical trials to see if using these methods results in better, more specific treatments for severe asthma.

Although the project is nearly officially over, the researchers involved will continue to input into a variety of different projects to ensure that all of the work is used for the benefit of people with asthma in the future. This includes the continued involvement of Asthma UK and our Research and Policy volunteers.

That means that Asthma UK will continue to follow where the outcomes from the U-BIOPRED project are used, and will continue to enable people with asthma to influence studies and trials where the information is used to further our knowledge. One such project using the outcomes from U-BIOPRED, and that our volunteers are already influencing, is the RASP-UK project.

Projects like U-BIOPRED show the potential for asthma research when researchers work together, and the ways that Asthma UK can help to influence much more research than we are able to fund for the benefit of people with asthma.

To find out how to get involved with projects like this as a Research and Policy volunteer, read more about the role.

You can also find out more about the U-BIOPRED project on its dedicated web page.

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Involving patients in research is about far more than just simply asking them to participate in trials for new treatments or interventions.

Asthma UK involves people affected by asthma at all stages of our research programme; from telling us what the priorities for research should be to help shape our research strategy, to selecting which research applications to us should be funded, to guiding researchers in external projects.

It's important to ensure that all of the research funded in asthma is going to have the biggest possible impact and benefit for people with asthma. Involving people with asthma, and parents of children with asthma, in making the decisions about how money is spent and in supporting researchers with their perspectives is an incredibly important part of that. Studies have shown that involving people in this way increases the likelihood of the success of some research projects, too, making them better value for money.

Working to involve people affected by asthma allows us to be a part of projects that are funded by others, too this means that the expertise that people with asthma have from living with the condition can be used to influence much more research than we are able to fund ourselves.

We have a range of different activities that people affected by asthma can be involved in and we welcome your input and perspectives for our research programme, and projects that we're partners on.

We do also publicise trials that are seeking participants but that's just the tip of the iceberg of how you can shape asthma research for the benefit of the 1 in 11 people in the UK with asthma, and globally.

Read about what it's like to be an Asthma UK Research and Policy volunteer, the opportunities that it brings and the reasons why people join from three of our current volunteers.

How to get involved - become a Research and Policy volunteer

All of the people that help us to shape, fund and guide research have joined us as Research and Policy volunteers. As part of this role, among other things, we ask them to:

  • shape our research strategy by deciding which questions are most important to people with asthma, and what research will have the biggest impact on their quality of life
  • review applications for funding that we receive from researchers
  • work with politicians, healthcare professionals and NHS decision-makers to improve the quality of asthma care
  • work with researchers to design research projects
  • share your perspective as someone living with asthma

We ask people to contribute as much or as little time as they're able to. If the above sounds like something that you'd like to participate in, you can find more information in the following downloads:

Research and Policy volunteer - Role description (PDF, 94kb)

Apply to become a Research and Policy volunteer

If you have any difficulties completing the application form, please get in touch with our research team research@asthma.org.uk.

Participating in clinical trials and other studies

Clinical trials can be used to test whether a new treatment or intervention works and to gather the evidence needed to get new treatments out to patients. Anyone can participate in trials of treatments or interventions, you don't need to be a Research and Policy volunteer. The trials listed below are run by other organisations, and each will have their own criteria for people that they will ask to participate for example, they might be recruiting only people with severe asthma. For more information about each, follow the links below and the contact details on the trial websites.

Join the RASP-UK Patient Input Platform

The UK Refractory Asthma Stratification Programme (RASP-UK) is an exciting collaboration between academic researchers, pharmaceutical and industry partners and patients to develop new treatments for severe asthma.

Other opportunities to get involved in research are available - visit our opportunities page to find out more.

Researchers wanting to involve people with asthma in their research

If you're a researcher and would like to find out how you can involve people affected by asthma in your research, you can find guidance in our pages for researchers.

You can involve people affected by asthma in the development of projects, providing guidance during projects and as participants. Find out how you could involve people, as there may be opportunities for people affected by asthma to shape your research that you hadn't considered.

Refractory Asthma Stratification Project (RASP-UK)

'Asthma' is not one condition; there are many different types of asthma and we need to understand more about the different causes and best treatment options. The challenge for researchers now is to better understand the different types, find ways to identify what type of asthma people have, and develop treatments that mean that people can receive treatment for 'their' asthma rather than a one-size-fits-all approach.

In 2010 the Medical Research Council (MRC) announced a large investment for a variety of conditions in an area of research called 'stratified medicine', with the first funding awards made in 2012. Stratified medicine aims to separate people with a condition into different groups and then treat them appropriately for their type of the condition. As part of this funding, at the beginning of 2015 the MRC are invested £4.8 million into research to better understand and treat severe asthma.

Asthma UK are partnering with the MRC, researchers, and pharmaceutical and industry partners on the Refractory Asthma Stratification Programme (RASP-UK). The investment from the MRC has been matched by private investment, resulting in a £9.6 million project to better understand and treat people with severe asthma, many of whom do not respond to current asthma treatments.

The study is now underway with over 100 patients recruited out of a target of 400 people with severe asthma. All patients will be placed into a trial based on a variety of measurements, before the measurements split them into different categories. The participants will then take part in a clinical trial to find out if there are better ways to treat people with severe asthma.

As well as demonstrating the benefits of collaboration on funding a project, this study will also show the benefits of collaborating during research; academic researchers will team up with industry partners and the NHS to run the study successfully, as well as working with Asthma UK to involve people with asthma.

If you would like to take part in any of the studies as a participant, visit the RASP-UK website to see which hospitals and institutions are recruiting people with severe asthma. The project is now underway and will run for 3 years until October 2018.

People with asthma making sure that important research happens

"This study is an example of how you can involve people with asthma in research and put them at the heart of what's happening." Quote from Val, Asthma UK Research and Policy volunteer and member of RASP-UK Patient Input Platform

The MRC in 2016 noted the 'productive and imaginative patient involvement around the various workstreams' so far in RASP-UK.

Our Research and Policy volunteers, all people affected by asthma, told us that moving towards this more personalised mode of treatment, especially for people with severe asthma who doesn't respond well to treatments, should be a priority for research. Using their feedback, the researchers came together and developed this plan, which captures all of the aspects that our volunteers wanted. Some of our volunteers are still involved in the project and support the researchers with a variety of aspects all of the time using their experience of severe asthma to ensure that the project is relevant to people with asthma.

Val is involved with the RASP-UK project read more about how she uses her experience with asthma to contribute to asthma research.

Developing better medicines and treatments for asthma

Understanding the underlying biology of asthma

Improving diagnosis and the care that people with asthma receive