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£4m boost for MRC-Asthma UK Centre

The Medical Research Council (MRC) and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) have co-funded a groundbreaking programme of asthma research at the MRC-Asthma UK Centre in Allergic Mechanisms of Asthma.

The £4m programme will investigate the interplay between allergy and viral infection in acute asthma attacks (known as exacerbations), which can be life-threatening and are often resistant to the few available treatments.

Professor Sebastian Johnston of Imperial College London and Dr Roberto Solari of GSK will lead three teams of scientists at Imperial, King’s College London and GSK to initiate new collaborations to explore the mechanisms of disease and identify potential targets for the development of new treatments.

Professor Johnston, who is Director of the MRC-Asthma UK Centre in Allergic Mechanisms of Asthma, said:

“This is a wonderful opportunity to combine the unique clinical models we have developed at Imperial with truly cutting edge science at King’s and drug discovery expertise at GSK into a new alliance to boost efforts to develop new therapies for this huge unmet medical need.”

Dr Solari, from GSK Respiratory Drug Discovery, said:

“GSK has a strong heritage of over 40 years experience in respiratory research and medicines. This is an exciting partnership for GSK to be involved in, examining state of the art science and bringing together experts in the field of asthma research. Gaining further understanding of the role viral infections might have in the development of allergic asthma could offer potential to unlock science that will help to develop future treatments and improve the lives of patients.”

Dr Paul Lavender, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Asthma, Allergy and Respiratory Science at King's College London, said:

“We are delighted to be awarded funding for this programme, during which we will investigate the mechanisms by which rhinovirus infection influences genes in structural, lung infiltrating and peripheral cells in patients. Our alliance with GSK seeks to determine whether the identified pathways or molecules regulating these events may be targets for therapeutic intervention. This will hopefully enable us to translate scientific research into treatments for patients much faster.”

Professor Stephen Holgate, Chair of the MRC Population and Systems Medicine Board, said:

“The human immune system provides vital protection from a vast array of diseases, but in some cases – such as asthma and allergy – it can be our worst enemy. This important investment by the MRC and GSK will help to advance our understanding of how these conditions interact at a molecular level, which we hope will inform new, effective and targeted therapies that make a real difference to patients.”

Dr Samantha Walker, Executive Director of Research and Policy at Asthma UK, said:

“This programme of research will be vital in exploring potential new treatments for asthma, a condition that still kills over 1,000 people every year in the UK. Despite the fact that asthma affects around 5.4 million people, research into asthma is under-resourced and so this funding is a huge boost. We hope the programme will lead to the discovery of new, life-changing treatments, particularly for the thousands of people whose asthma is resistant to current medicines.”

The MRC-Asthma UK Centre in Allergic Mechanisms of Asthma was established in 2006 to unite two hubs of asthma research expertise at King’s College and Imperial into a single, world-leading Centre.

Asthma affects one in 12 of the population in the UK, with 5.4 million people currently receiving treatment. The UK has the highest prevalence of asthma in young adults in Europe and the number of children reporting asthma symptoms has risen six-fold over the last 30 years.

(Original article)

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