What science can do in respiratory disease

Thursday, 14 May 2015

What science can do in respiratory disease?

James Ward-Lilley,
Vice President, Respiratory, Inflammation & Autoimmune Therapy Area, Global Product & Portfolio Strategy 

Respiratory conditions such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are a continuing heavy burden for patients, carers and healthcare systems worldwide.

Asthma, for example, is a significant cause of morbidity and mortality, affecting 300 million people worldwide. That figure could reach 400 million by 2025.1 Another 300 million people live with COPD,2 and will be the third leading cause of death globally by 2030.3 In many patients, the disease is poorly controlled and subject to exacerbations. Only about half of all COPD cases are diagnosed.4

These are conditions where the existing range of treatment options needs to be expanded and refined. Respiratory-disease treatment is still largely defined by the bronchodilators and steroids that emerged some 20 years ago, as well as the combination products that followed over the last decade.

Those treatments are still used widely and effectively. But we can do better.

AstraZeneca has a clear and focused strategy to push the boundaries of science in ways that will ultimately transform disease management and patient outcomes in asthma, COPD and idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. We have a robust pipeline of novel inhaled and biologic therapies, diversity in formulation allowing unique drug combinations, and leading devices providing potential to improve patient outcomes.

We are optimising our existing inhaled portfolio through meaningful improvements that benefit patients, health professionals and healthcare systems. We are also delivering cutting-edge science that opens up new pathways to tackle disease.

The emergence of new biologics and more targeted therapies create opportunities to address unmet medical need with safer, more effective, more user-friendly therapies, tailored precisely to identified patient segments and sub-populations.

We are following the science.

Along with our collaborators, we are striving to understand respiratory diseases as a spectrum from the mild to the severe, with different patient phenotypes and a wide variety of causes, whether biological, genetic or environmental. We increasingly know that the triggers and drivers of respiratory conditions differ from one individual to the next, and from one country or region to another.

For example, asthma in China is not the same as asthma in North America. By identifying disease clusters and phenotypes, we can customise therapies to specific patient groups or even individual patients, while taking into account wider influences such environmental pollution or susceptibility to viruses.

Ultimately we’re looking to improve patient outcomes. Our strategy is to maximize the value of our existing inhaled portfolio for patients and move toward delivering a portfolio of precision therapies, including biologics and small molecules. Through this focused strategy we aim to transform management of disease, including frequency of treatment, progression of disease and the triggers within our priority respiratory diseases.

Precision medicine, in the form of scientifically supported, personalised treatments that improve short-and long-term outcomes, will drive our efforts in respiratory treatment – within our inhaled portfolio and new biologics – and create new standards of care that really move the needle for disease management.

The evidence of our commitment to improve outcomes and push the boundaries of innovative science is demonstrated in the company’s significantly higher profile at this year’s American Thoracic Society conference. This year, 55 abstracts have been accepted, compared with around 30 at the 2014 conference –itself a new benchmark for our Respiratory, Inflammation and Autoimmunity team.

AstraZeneca’s outstanding respiratory portfolio, with our commitment to making patients’ lives better through precision therapies and a range of tailored devices, is already well on its way to translating innovative science into real, measurable and meaningful benefits for patients, carers, health professionals and society overall.

To read about the highlights of this year’s ATS meeting and how AstraZeneca is transforming the respiratory-disease paradigm, keep an eye on LabTalk at http://www.labtalk.astrazeneca.com/


1. Masoli M, Fabian D, Holt S, et al. The global burden of asthma: executive summary of the GINA Dissemination Committee Report. Allergy 2004;59:468-78.
2. Ekstrom MP, Bornefalk-Hermansson A et al. Safety of benzodiazepines and opioids in very severe respiratory disease: national prospective study. BMJ. 2014; 348: g445.
3. World Health Organization. Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder, updated May 2014. Available at: http://www.who.int/respiratory/copd/en/ Last accessed May 2015.
4. National Institutes of Health. National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. Morbidity and mortality: 2012 chart book on cardiovascular, lung and blood diseases. Available at: https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/files/docs/research/2012_ChartBook_508.pdf Last accessed May 2015


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