Collaboration funds asthma diagnosis projects in the UK

Asthma UK and Innovate UK, have teamed up to fund three projects to help make diagnosis more accurate and treatment more efficient

Asthma patients across the UK are set to benefit from projects funded jointly by Innovate UK and Asthma UK to improve diagnosis and support better, more personalised treatments.

The new three-year projects are based in Manchester, Edinburgh and Portsmouth and bring together collaborations between academic researchers and innovative businesses. Each project will receive new investment worth over £200,000.

Diagnosing asthma in pre-school children is extremely difficult. Each patient’s asthma is different and has individual triggers that vary over time. Current tests for asthma often lead to misdiagnosis and mean patients have to trial treatments to find what works for them. This means up to 40% of people are put on the wrong treatment initially.

To tackle this challenge, Innovate UK and Asthma UK created an opportunity for businesses and researchers to work together to develop ways to improve the health and well-being of the 5.4 million people in the UK whose lives are affected by asthma.

This partnership is one of the ways that Innovate UK is helping to deliver the government’s industrial strategy and make sure the UK meets the target of spending 2.4% of GDP on R&D by 2027.

The three projects:

  • University of Manchester and Owlstone Medical are creating new tests for asthma diagnosis that look at the small airways of the lungs and whether these tests better predict response to treatment. This could reduce the number of people who are wrongly diagnosed with asthma and are therefore taking unnecessary medication.
  • University of Edinburgh and Tactuum are building a clinical decision support system to help doctors and nurses in general practice diagnose asthma more easily that will lead to better assessment of asthma and more personalised treatment.
  • Queen Alexandra Hospital, Portsmouth and Cambridge Respiratory Innovations are testing a new device to measure gases in exhaled breath to diagnose asthma in hospitals and GP surgeries, which will make the journey to diagnosis quicker, better and cheaper.

Dr Kath Mackay, Interim Director of Ageing Society and Health & Nutrition at Innovate UK said: “By choosing to work in partnership with leading charities, such as Asthma UK, we can connect businesses to the resources that the charities may have. This can be access to patients, new ideas and the ability to generate real-world evidence.”

Each application for the Innovate UK-Asthma UK funding was submitted for review by at least three external peer reviewers as well as two scientific members and three lay members of a specially convened Research Review Panel.

With further funding likely to become available, Innovate UK and Asthma UK are looking at running a second similar competition either later this year or early in 2020. Ahead of that, both organisations plan to run a networking workshop to encourage new partnerships between researchers and businesses to consider applying for funding.

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