MRC Technology, Cambridge-based AstraZeneca, Asthma UK, and British Lung Foundation have entered into a collaboration to explore treatments for respiratory diseases and explore the link between epigenetics and respiratory disease.

Epigenetics are changes in the expression of genes, which could be attributed to lifestyle and other external factors affecting the body. Epigenetics do not change the DNA sequence. Until now epigenetics research has mostly focused on cancer but it presents a promising avenue for respiratory research which, it is hoped, will help accelerate the delivery of new treatments.

The collaboration 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.

The partners are calling on researchers to join them to accelerate epigenetic respiratory research, particularly into asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Kay Boycott, chief executive at Asthma UK, said: “Every 10 seconds someone has a potentially fatal asthma attack, Frighteningly for those with severe asthma, treatments often don’t work so the need for new and effective treatments is urgent.”

Dr Justin Bryans, director, drug discovery, at MRC Technology added: “Our collaboration improves the likelihood that promising research will be translated into potential new patient treatments.

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