AstraZeneca, MRC Technology and Asthma UK and the British Lung Foundation have joined forces to investigate the link between epigenetics and respiratory disease.

Epigenetics are changes in the expression of genes possibly occurring because of lifestyle and other external factors affecting the body. According to the partners, the area presents a promising avenue for respiratory research which could help speed up the delivery of new treatments.

The industry-charity partnership 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, particularly asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

"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," said Kay Boycott, chief executive at Asthma UK. "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."

"Our collaboration improves the likelihood that promising research will be translated into potential new patient treatments," added Dr Justin Bryans, Director, Drug Discovery, at MRC Technology. "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."

The partners have now put out a call for epigenetics targets or mechanisms associated with either respiratory disease including COPD, asthma and exacerbated asthma through infections, or immunomodulation and inflammation, and is looking to work with researchers who can bring enabling assays, reagents and disease models to the collaboration.