The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) and AstraZeneca have formed a new partnership aiming to progress "crucial research" in respiratory disease.

Under the collaboration, the NIHR Translational Research Partnership in inflammatory respiratory disease and AstraZeneca are carrying out a study testing the effect of the drugmaker's injectable biologic tralokinumab on severe, uncontrolled asthma which is driven by IL-13 inflammation.

Tralokinumab is a human monoclonal antibody that works by specifically blocking the effects of the signalling protein IL-13 that is a key in the development of asthmatic disease.

The precision medicine study aims to understand the mechanisms behind the disease to help determine which patients might respond best to treatment. As such, the researchers are looking at how the drug works by observing its impact on inflammatory cells and the changes in the structure of the airway, using lung function tests and CT scans.

The NHS spends more than £1 billion a year on asthma treatments alone, and the figures are rising, the NIHR notes. Targeting therapies to patients who will most likely respond will increase their cost-effectiveness, as well as save those unlikely to benefit from having to take them.

"We are all aware that drug development is incredibly expensive, and so we welcome precision medicine which has the potential to reduce development costs by identifying patients who are likely to more benefit from experimental therapies," commented Mark Samuels, MD of the Office for Clinical Research Infrastructure (NOCRI).

"The NIHR's Translational Research Partnership in inflammatory respiratory disease was established to bring together the UK's leading academic and clinical centres for experimental medicine and translational research into a ready-formed partnership of Universities and NHS hospitals. And this partnership with AstraZeneca is an exciting step forward to tackle asthma, which affects so many people."