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New collaboration to explore novel treatments for respiratory diseases

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A charity-industry collaboration has launched an initiative to find new epigenetic drug treatments to improve the lives of millions of people affected by respiratory diseases every year.

The respiratory collaboration brings Asthma UK, AstraZeneca, the British Lung Foundation and MRC Technology together to investigate the link between epigenetics and respiratory disease. Epigenetics are changes in the expression of genes, which could be attributed to lifestyle and other external factors affecting the body. Epigenetics do not change the DNA sequence. Until now epigenetics research has mostly focused on cancer, but it presents a promising avenue for respiratory research which, it is hoped, will help speed up the delivery of new treatments.

The collaboration is combining resources and expertise in drug discovery and clinical development, funding, and access to research networks and patient groups to enable early stage scientific research to be translated into potential new therapies for respiratory diseases. The collaboration is calling on researchers to join them to accelerate epigenetic respiratory research, particularly into asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Kay Boycott, Chief Executive at Asthma UK said: “Every 10 seconds someone has a potentially fatal asthma attack, and frighteningly, for those with severe asthma, treatments often don’t work, so the need for new and effective treatments is urgent. We are therefore delighted to be providing funding for this collaboration which will help us better understand the relationship between epigenetics and respiratory diseases, including asthma, and ultimately develop new, effective treatments.”

Maarten Kraan, Head of the Respiratory and Inflammation Innovative Medicines Unit at AstraZeneca said: “With novel therapeutic strategies directed against epigenetic changes, this collaboration represents an important step forward in AstraZeneca’s commitment to the fundamental research needed to find transformative medicines for the hundreds of millions of patients afflicted by these conditions.”

Dr Penny Woods, Chief Executive of the British Lung Foundation, said: “We’re delighted to be sharing our expertise, promoting this opportunity to our research networks, and looking to contribute funding to the initiative. We must ensure that the best scientific ideas are identified and developed into real-world improvements to treat the millions of people who have lung disease.”

Dr Justin Bryans, Director, Drug Discovery, at MRC Technology said: “Our collaboration improves the likelihood that promising research will be translated into potential new patient treatments. The funding and support from Asthma UK and the British Lung Foundation will enable us to identify innovative science to progress in our own laboratories, while AstraZeneca’s expertise is invaluable to get therapies into the clinic.”

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