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The University of Gothenburg and AstraZeneca cooperating to develop new medicines for asthma and COPD


The University of Gothenburg and AstraZeneca have initiated cooperation focusing on respiratory illnesses. In the next two years, researchers from both sides will work together to explore the biological processes behind asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

The goal is for the cooperation to yield new medications that are better suited for the different forms of the illnesses, facilitating what scientists call ‘personalised medicine’ or ‘personalised healthcare’.
‘We’re very excited about the increased cooperation with AstraZeneca in this important area,’ says Olle Larkö, Dean of the Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg.

‘In the last five years, we have learned how to identify patients in different sub-groups of asthma and COPD. In addition, there are well-established methods to understand molecular and inflammatory mechanisms in connection with illnesses, which implies great opportunities to solve complex research problems. And the opportunity to cooperate with such a powerful company as AstraZeneca will most likely speed up the transfer of research results to clinical use, for example in the form of new medicines,’ says Professor Jan Lötvall, chair of the Krefting Research Centre, University of Gothenburg.

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is currently the fourth most common cause of death in the world, and approximately 300 million people in the world suffer from asthma. Both asthma and COPD are heterogeneous diseases, where different biological processes result in similar clinical manifestations. For example, although asthma patients often have hyper-reactive airways, the underlying reasons for this can vary.

For asthma alone, scientists talk about six different types. The researchers at the Krefting Research Centre and AstraZeneca will focus on exploring what happens biologically in the different sub-groups with medical needs. The goal is to identify both biomarkers and new targets for future treatments.

‘By combining the competence at the Krefting Research Centre with our business focus and experience with drug development, the cooperation will increase our ability to develop treatments that can change the lives of many asthma and COPD patients,’ says Maarten Kraan, Head of Respiratory, Inflammation & Autoimmunity, Innovative Medicines AstraZeneca.

The Krefting Research Centre’s West Sweden Asthma Study, led by Professor Bo Lundbäck, is a crucial resource in the research work. The study, which covers 30 000 randomly selected individuals age 16–75, has found a prevalence of asthma of 8.5 per cent. AstraZeneca contributes with expertise regarding the cellular and molecular processes in respiratory disorders, as well as extensive experience with drug research and development.

The Krefting Research Centre receives primary financial support from a foundation with roots in VBG-GROUP from Vänersborg north of Gothenburg.