Table 1

Summary of ongoing research initiatives, in Europe and the USA, aiming at a better understanding of the complexity of asthma and COPD

Study nameGoalType of patients includedReported strategy
Unbiased Biomarkers for the Prediction of Respiratory Disease Outcomes
To better understand the different types of severe asthma with the hope that this understanding will consider individual characteristics and make it easier to develop new medicines500 adult patients with severe asthma and several control groups, including up to 75 patients with non-severe asthma, 100 patients with COPD and 50 non-smoking healthy peopleIntegration of high-dimensional data from invasive (bronchial biopsies), non-invasive (blood, sputum, urine and exhaled air) and patient-reported outcomes will enable identification of distinct phenotypic handprints with the aim of predicting therapeutic (including innovative and new molecules) efficacy in view of personalised management
Emphysema versus Airway study
To explore the concept that emphysema and airway disease are governed by different pathophysiological processes, are driven by different genes and have differential gene expression in the lung500 patients with COPD (ex-smokers) and 300 healthy volunteers (age >45, never smokers or ex-smokers)Gene expression in the two types of lung tissue, that is, bronchial epithelial cells (bronchoscopic brush) and alveolar macrophages (broncho-alveolar lavage), is compared with CT-defined emphysema and airway disease phenotypes
Mechanisms of the Development of Allergy
To generate novel knowledge on the mechanisms of initiation of allergy from early childhood to young adulthood to propose early diagnosis, prevention and targets for therapyLarge network of existing birth cohortsMethods and tools used in systems biology will be applied to facilitate an effective knowledge management strategy and to integrate the findings of the different mechanistic studies built up on the samples provided by the birth cohorts. The information from the mechanistic studies will be used to validate the classical and novel phenotypes and to assess interactions with relevant environmental factors
Synergy-COPD project
To study the underlying mechanisms of COPD phenotypes associated with poor prognosis, by simulating different functions of the human body using computer models at different levels (sub-cellular, tissue, organ and organ system) The project seeks to produce a more complete computer model of the mechanisms of COPDExisting databases of clinical trials and research projects of the pharmaceutical industry regarding patients with COPDThe project integrates all this information with physiological and molecular biology data that have been processed for more than 30 years to obtain a unified model, which is the one that will be used to simulate the evolution of the disease in a person. First, contributing to foster convergence between basic and clinical sciences. Second, promoting the link between systems medicine and integrated care, aiming at personalised health for patients with chronic diseases
Airway Disease Predicting Outcomes through Patient Specific Computational Modelling
To develop a patient-specific multiscale predictive computational airway model that can predict the development of asthma or COPD in an individual patientPatients with asthma, COPD and a small number of healthy controls from three large European cohorts EvA, U-BIOPRED and the BTS severe asthma cohortA broad multi-discipline approach (including expertise in physiology, radiology, image analysis, bioengineering, data harmonisation, security and ethics, computational modelling and systems biology) will enable development of an integrated multiscale airways model
European Study of Cohorts for Air Pollution Effects
Investigate long-term effects of air pollution on perinatal health outcomes, development of respiratory and cardiovascular disease and cause-specific mortalityEuropean cohort studies from the general populationEfficiently using health data already available from European cohort studies. To these studies, air pollution exposure assessment will be applied at the individual home address level of participants in each of these studies
Consortium on Health and Ageing: Network of Cohorts in Europe and the USA
To combine and integrate ongoing cohort studies to produce an integrated approach to the study of health in older people. To generate a unique resource for additional studies on health and multi-morbidity in older peopleCombining 15 European cohorts of older peopleEvaluating health issues related to ageing and ageing-related conditions. Health-related determinants comprising socio-economic factors, environmental factors, occupational exposures, lifestyle and nutritional factors. Health-related conditions comprise mainly cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, bone disease and cognitive disorders but also respiratory and other diseases
COPDgene study
To investigate the underlying genetic factors of COPD, to better classify COPD and understand how the disease may differ from person to person10 000 smokers with and without COPD across all GOLD stagesA GWAS is performed to identify genetic risk factors related to COPD. Furthermore, it is planned to characterise the disease process using high-resolution CT scans
Subpopulations and intermediate outcome measures in COPD study
To identify COPD subpopulations and intermediate outcome measures for future use in clinical studies. Secondary aims are to clarify the natural history of COPD, to develop bioinformatic resources and to create a database for further research3200 patients with COPD, 40–80 years of age, included at six clinical centres in the USAA prospective collection and analysis of phenotypic, biomarker, genetic, genomic, and clinical data, including high-resolution CT scans and bronchoscopic samples (in a subset of patients)
Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis
To investigate the prevalence and progression of subclinical cardiovascular disease. The extensive phenotyping of this ‘cardiovascular’ study have already provided insight in airways diseasePopulation-based sample of 6814 asymptomatic men and women aged 45–84 yearsExtensive and repetitive cardiovascular functional and structural imaging, standard coronary risk factors, socio-demographic factors, lifestyle factors, and psychosocial factors. Blood samples of DNA are being extracted and lymphocytes immortalised for study of candidate genes, and possibly, genome-wide scanning
  • BTS, British Thoracic Society; COPD, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; GOLD, Global Initiative for Chronic Lung Diseases; GWAS, genome-wide association study.