The British Lung Foundation (BLF), in collaboration with GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) has awarded £1.3 million (about $1.68 million) in grants to three lung disease experts to support research projects on finding new therapeutic targets for personalized medicine in idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF), bronchiectasis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
“Our professorships nurture and develop outstanding lung researchers who can bring groundbreaking research and international leadership to lung disease,” Ian Jarrold, the BLF’s head of research, said in a press release. “We witness first-hand the devastating consequences that the long-term neglect of lung disease can have on patients and their families. Considering the impact diseases like bronchiectasis, COPD and IPF have on a patient’s quality of life, the lack of support and treatment options available is wholly unacceptable.”
One of the three recipients is Toby Maher, clinical investigator at the National Heart and Lung Institute (NHLI), Imperial College London, and consultant respiratory physician at Royal Brompton Hospital’s Interstitial Lung Disease Unit.
Maher and his team are studying the underlying mechanism that causes the tissue scaring that leads to IPF. He is also identifying groups of patients who may respond well to personalized treatments.
“Given the poor prognosis of IPF patients, they don’t have time to wait years for new treatments,” Maher said. “I will be identifying blood-based biomarkers which could halve the time taken to validate new medicines, and running clinical trials with a focus on repurposing existing drugs to further cut the time taken to make novel treatments available to individuals with IPF.”
He added: “As many as 1 in 10 individuals with IPF also develop episodes of acute exacerbation or infection each year, with these episodes leading to 50 percent of people dying within a month. I aim to reduce this through a home monitoring project empowering patients to spot early deterioration in their disease.”
Professor Louise Wain of the University of Leicester and professor James Chalmers of the University of Dundee both received GSK/BLF Chair in Respiratory Research awards for their contributions in understanding lung diseases.
Wain’s research project will integrate genetic analysis with clinical data to identify genetic susceptibility markers for IPF and COPD. Chalmers’ project aims to identify patients that could benefit from personalized therapies, and based on this knowledge develop potential tests to detect infection or inflammation processes that may respond to personalized treatment.
Work by all three grant recipients “has the potential to improve our understanding of these diseases, and provide personalized medicine, something which has already led to huge improvements in the treatment of many cancers,” Jarrold said. He added that “their work will provide families dealing with a lung disease diagnosis more hope for the future.”