The U-BIOPRED project is set to meet its ultimate aim of creating a handprint of severe asthma to advance understanding of the disease.
The final annual meeting of U-BIOPRED members was held in Leuven, Belgium on 22-23 June, 2015 and was followed by a results symposium that was open to patients and the public (24 June, 2015).
Project leaders reported that the creation of a severe asthma handprint was on course, which would help the project deliver its ultimate aim of uncovering new information and ideas that could lead to the creation of effective new treatments.
The meeting was an opportunity for project members to share their achievements and plan to ensure that the project’s objectives can be met over the final stages of this 6-year project (2000-2015).
In-depth analysis: key activities and outcomes
Samples from 893 adults and children with severe asthma have been collected as part of the project and compared to samples from people with mild asthma, no asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), to identify different sub-types (known as phenotypes) of severe asthma. The samples are also analysed to:
- Discover novel mechanisms involved in severe asthma
- Make links between pre-clinical models and clinical research, such as moving from research and discoveries in animals to humans
- Provide the data for selecting which aspects of severe asthma should be targeted in the development of new drugs
This diagram shows the process of how the samples from the trial participants are used by different studies in U-BIOPRED to produce a handprint of severe asthma. Two key factors that make this possible are the storing and transport of the samples in the U-BIOPRED biobank, and the knowledge management system that enables the project members to access all the different data produced by the sample analysis.
Fingerprints and handprints
Once the sample collection was complete, data was put together using advanced mathematics to develop a ‘handprint’ of severe asthma sub-types. These are created through the identification of markers based on very specific factors, ranging from the individual’s genes to the impact of other conditions, such as allergy, and their quality of life with severe asthma (red text).
This diagram shows how the different types of information collected from the trial participants (black text) are being used to identify the subtypes of severe asthma.
U-BIOPRED has so far achieved 75% of its main goals. It is expected that 90% of these goals will be met by the end of August 2015. The goals that have been met include:
- Agreeing a definition of severe asthma to be used by every project member and partner organisation
- Identifying patterns in the data including higher levels of a specific protein in their blood for people with severe asthma who smoke have. These clusters were the first step to developing fingerprints
- A cold virus was developed and approved to test the relationship between severe asthma and the common cold
- 12 papers on different areas of the project have been published in academic journals over the last year. Visit the publication area on this website to see a full list of papers published.
U-BIOPRED has been able to shift thinking from asthma as a single disease with a single treatment, to the awareness of different subtypes of asthma, which can be identified through tests so that patients can receive better treatment that is more closely matched to their subtype of asthma.
By achieving this, U-BIOPRED is helping make personalised medicine a reality, where each person’s unique type of severe asthma can be identified and treated with the best treatment for them.
Next steps (2015/16)
Although the EU funding for the project ends in September 2015, the U-BIOPRED members are committed to completing their work, which will see results coming from the project continuing into 2016. Aims include:
- To complete the analysis of the data and ‘lock’ the shared database so that everyone using the data is using the same/correct data
- Identifying, refining and confirming the handprints
- Completing the common cold study
- Identifying the potential for using the results of U-BIOPRED in clinical practice and how this could be acheived, for example, what should be looked at in future studies
- Looking at how the work of U-BIOPRED (handprints and fingerprints) could be used in medicines development, for example through discussions with the European Medicines Agency (EMA)
- Complete publications on findings of all U-BIOPRED-related studies, and produce lay abstracts for all projects idenitfied as having wider patient and public interest by the Patient Input Platform (PIP)
- Communicate the findings of the project to medical and scientific audiences, for example at the European Respiratory Society (ERS) International Congress 2015
- Develop guidance for patient involvement in future research projects to ensure best practice and maximum opportunity for patient involvement, for example producing a booklet for IMI project coordinators and available on the IMI website for funding applicants.