Safer therapies for asthma and lung disease

A collaborative research programme between King’s Collage London and the University of Hertfordshire is targeting new drugs to address the harmful side effects of tradition asthma and COPD treatments.

Partner: King’s College London

Research challenge

Asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are major global health burdens. Asthma affects around 235 million people and is the most common chronic disease among children; COPD causes more than three million deaths worldwide each year, accounting for five per cent of all deaths globally. Routine therapies for the two diseases include inhaled corticosteroids to reduce inflammation and bronchodilators, such as beta-2 agonist compounds used in the inhaler brand Ventolin, to widen the airways.

However, there is growing concern over the safety of the prolonged use of these therapies. For example, studies have identified an increased risk of pneumonia in COPD patients taking inhaled steroids, in addition to the well-known adverse effects of continued steroid use, such as osteoporosis. University of Hertfordshire researchers, led by Darragh Murnane, Professor of Pharmaceutics, are collaborating with researchers from King’s College London, led by Clive Page, Professor of Pharmacology  to explore novel ways deliver safe, effective therapies that offer disease modification for lung disease.

Benefits of collaboration

The research partnership between University of Hertfordshire and King’s College London (KCL) has identified a novel anti-inflammatory activity that reduces  the accumulation in the lung of inflammatory cells associated with asthma and COPD. The researchers are now developing ‘bifunctional therapies’, where two different pharmacological actions – in this case bronchodilatory and anti-inflammatory activity – are performed in a single molecule to both offer an alternative anti-inflammatory mechanism and provide symptomatic relief.

The next stage in the research process is the detailed investigation of the pharmacological and chemical mechanisms of these novel compounds. Research council funding is not a viable option since it would require disclosure of emerging intellectual property (IP), which must remain protected to facilitate rapid commercial exploitation. In combining the skills and expertise of the cross-institutional research team, Therapy Accelerator funding opens the door for researchers to generate the necessary evidence to mature the technology and subsequently attract both commercial and translational funding streams.

“Our project sits at the interface of fundamental and translational research. The Therapy Accelerator allows us to bridge the gap between the two in pursuit of safer, more effective treatments for asthma and COPD.”

– Professor Clive Page, Head of the Sackler Institute of Pulmonary Pharmacology, King’s College London

Potential impact

The aim of the research collaboration is to produce novel chemical entities with long-acting bronchodilation and anti-inflammatory effects. These compounds can be further developed as novel treatments of lung inflammation, including for asthma and COPD.

KCL lead Clive Page, Professor of Pharmacology and Head of the Sackler Institute of Pulmonary Pharmacology, has a long history of working with the pharmaceutical industry on IP-generation projects. If the studies are successful in demonstrating the pharmacological efficacy of the new drug compounds, researchers will protect the IP in order to enable first a rapid clinical trial and then a long-term drug discovery and development programme.

Research-active SMEs or academic institutions interested in discussing collaborative research and innovation opportunities in life sciences should contact or call +44 (0) 1707 286406.