Holy Grail: severe steroid-insensitive asthma a major unmet need in asthma therapy


16 Nov 2016


In this month’s holy grail Jay Horvat, a Senior Lecturer in Immunology and Microbiology at Newcastle University in NSW describes his progress in addressing a major unmet need in asthma therapy – uncovering new therapies for severe forms of steroid-insensitive asthma.

Can you describe the aim of your research in 10 words?

To uncover new therapies for severe forms of steroid-insensitive asthma.

What have you discovered so far?

Severe, steroid-insensitive asthma is the major unmet need in asthma therapy with patients with this disease few effective treatment options and a lower quality of life. Improved therapies are urgently required for these patients. The major problem with identifying new therapies is a limited understanding of what drives disease. Using experimental models of disease we have discovered a number of novel factors that are universally dysregulated in severe, steroid-insensitive asthma. We are now conducting studies to determine whether correcting the dysregulation of these factors in our models can alleviate disease. This will not only help determine the roles that these factors play in the development of severe, steroid-insensitive asthma but will also test their potential as therapeutic targets.

What part of your findings excites you the most?

Many of the factors that we have identified have not previously been shown to play important roles in severe asthma. This suggests that the work that we are conducting may transform the way in which we think about how severe forms of asthma develop and, ultimately, inform new therapeutic strategies for the treatment of severe, steroid-insensitive asthma, which currently has limited treatment options.

How far is your work from impacting patient care?

We are still a number of years off from moving our findings into clinical practice, however, some of our findings may be translated into the clinic with appropriate funding.

If you could discover one thing in your research, what would it be? (e.g what’s your holy grail?)

Severe, steroid-insensitive asthma is currently treated with high doses of steroids that are not as effective and may have a number of unwanted side effects or by using expensive biological drugs that only work in specific patient cohorts. I would like to think that the work that we are doing may help identify new therapies that are universally effective for the treatment of severe, steroid-insensitive asthma and will help improve patient outcomes for asthmatics that suffer from a lower quality of life as a result of their severe form of the disease.

What’s on your bucket list?

I just want to keep conducting good science that I get a thrill out of with good researchers who I enjoy working with.

Name two food items that you couldn’t live without.

Beer & pizza

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