Working in Partnerships
To increase the funding available for asthma research we actively pursue different types of partnerships with other researchers and research funders, where these research aims are the same as our own. These will always focus on the top 15 research priorities.
We provide support in the form of Patient and Public Involvement, supporting some of our Research and Policy volunteers to become involved with a project and bring their perspectives to it. We co-fund with other research funders so that we are able to support more world-leading research. We bring together world-class researchers to collaborate on the most important topics in asthma research.
European Asthma Research and Innovation Partnership (EARIP)
The European Asthma Research & Innovation Partnership (EARIP) was a project led and co-ordinated by Asthma UK and funded by a European Commission FP7 grant. It aimed to identify areas of unmet need and poor outcomes that need focus and investment to transform health outcomes in Europe; reducing asthma attacks, hospitalisations and even deaths.
The Partnership has identified 15 key areas, which provide a blueprint for investment in asthma research, development and innovation. We have got, for the first time, international, cross-disciplinary consensus on the priorities in asthma research that need addressing.
This ‘roadmap’ was produced after detailed and rigorous analysis using internationally recognised methodology. The process was led by a group of leading experts from across academia, patient organisations, health professionals and pharmaceutical companies.
The work done through EARIP highlights the critical gaps in our basic understanding of asthma and shows how we can drive innovation and competitiveness to prevent, manage and eventually cure asthma. Priorities for investment include new treatments, new and better diagnostic tests and a new approach to self-management through disruptive but transformational e- and m-health technologies. This would not only improve health outcomes for people with asthma, but would create jobs, attract further investment and allow the UK to lead the world in preventing, managing and curing asthma for the global community of over 300 million people with asthma.
Asthma UK is working with national and international funders to ensure that these areas of research receive greater investment, and help to drive future innovation. Asthma UK is keen to facilitate new collaborations and use our networks to connect people. If you have ideas about how the UK and its partners can drive a revolution in asthma research and innovation to transform asthma outcomes for this generation and the next, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
The European Asthma Research & Innovation Partnership was supported by the European Commission through the FP7 programme (GA: 602077)
Technology, especially mobile phones, is becoming an increasingly popular and easy way for people to monitor their health and work towards goals. There are many different devices and apps that claim to help you to monitor your asthma, but none of them have been scientifically proven to actually benefit people with asthma with their management of their condition.
This may be because asthma is actually a complex condition and will be different for each person. Different things may trigger symptoms, people will live in different environments that may contribute to their symptoms, and we know that some people aren't shown how to use their inhalers properly and so their medications aren't effective. It can be difficult to track and remember growing symptoms too, so things can get worse over time without you noticing.
Asthma UK are partnering on a project called myAirCoach that is working to develop a system that helps people with asthma to manage their condition, as well as running a trial to test that it does work and does help.
This system will be more sophisticated than currently available self-management tools, and it will involve the combination of a 'smart' inhaler and app for your smart phone or tablet. The inhaler will contain a number of sensors which will record how well people are taking medication, and any small changes in their asthma that they may not even notice. Linking with a smart phone or tablet will enable information about the environment and potential triggers to be recorded.
It could be that the myAirCoach system will eventually be 'prescribed' to people with asthma, or that patients decide to use it to help them to keep track of their condition. The researchers are also investigating ways to use the information collected by the system to link you better with your healthcare professionals.
One of our essential roles in the project is to join researchers up with people with asthma, through our Research and Policy volunteers, all of whom are people affected by asthma. This will ensure that the final product, as well as being effective, is easy to use and is something that people with asthma would want to use in their day to day lives.
The project involves experts and researchers from universities and companies all over Europe.
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.
Unbiased Biomarkers in Prediction of respiratory disease outcomes: The U-BIOPRED project
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.