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Unbiased biomarkers for the prediction of respiratory disease outcomes


The U-BIOPRED project aims to speed up the development of better treatments for patients with severe asthma. Several knowledge gaps today make it hard to predict in the early stages of drug development how well a new experimental medicine will work in patients. One of the major difficulties is the finding that there are many different forms of severe asthma, caused by different mechanisms of disease. Patients with different types of asthma may react differently to new or existing treatments.


The U-BIOPRED consortium brings together the leaders of the major global networks of severe asthma, such as ENFUMOSA, BIOAIR, GA²LEN, GABRIEL, BTS Severe Asthma, MRC Southampton Severe Asthma and NIH-SARP. Bundling their expertise in U-BIOPRED, the researchers will create and validate innovative testing methods to classify patients into distinct severe asthma types. Using a sophisticated systems biology approach, they will bring together genetic data from patients, results from tissue samples, blood tests and breathing tests, as well as clinical findings and patient reported symptoms. This will be linked to results of preclinical models, in order to facilitate future drug development.

By combining this information in a clever way, the researchers will generate a 'handprint' – a combination of biological characteristics (biomarkers) that indicates what type of asthma a patient is suffering from. The scientists will test if a patients' asthma handprint can predict how the disease will progress in that patient.  Furthermore, they will divide patients into sub-groups, according to their handprint, and examine if patients within the same sub-group react in a similar way to existing or experimental treatments for severe asthma. Such findings would make the efficacy of candidate drugs more predictable and will help to speed up the development of new treatments. Moreover, a better understanding of the differences in drug-response among patients will enable more personalised and targeted treatment of patients with severe asthma.


Achievements & News

IMI projects working together – eTRIKS gives U-BIOPRED boost
Severe asthma is often difficult to manage and many patients are unresponsive to treatment. IMI’s U-BIOPRED project aims to make severe asthma diagnosis and treatment more personalised by creating ‘handprints’ that identify sub-phenotypes of asthma. The eTRIKS project has been working with U-BIOPRED by deploying analytical techniques ###to help them in their research, in order to create an environment where the diverse ‘big data’ sets can be compared and analysed. “eTRIKS provides gel without which we could be floating in pools of excess data with no direction,” said Professor Ian Adcock at Imperial College. “U-BIOPRED is using these data to produce at least 60 publications to advance the understanding of the complex causes and subtypes of severe asthma. The eTRIKS/tranSMART platform is a key ingredient to making this happen.” Read the press release . (June 2015)

Save the date! U-BIOPRED results symposium

Save the date! IMI’s project U-BIOPRED is holding a results symposium on Wednesday 24 June in Leuven, Belgium. Project partners will showcase major achievements and findings from the project and outline future steps ###for the consortium, building upon the results of this multi-centre project. The event will also present the U-BIOPRED experience of patient-research collaboration to support the clinical trials and ensure relevance of the project to the lives of people living with asthma. U-BIOPRED is one of IMI’s first projects and is due to finish in September 2015. The project has been working over the last 5 years to speed up the development of personalised and targeted treatment of patients with severe asthma by creating a novel way to identify different types of chronic asthma using a ‘handprint’ – a combination of biological characteristics (biomarkers) that indicates what type of asthma a patient is suffering from. 
(April 2015)

U-BIOPRED’s latest findings in the spotlight at major respiratory congress
IMI project U-BIOPRED is making great strides towards its goal of identifying distinct subtypes of severe asthma, something that will ultimately help to pave the way for personalised treatments for this serious health problem. ###The project presented a number of its findings at the recent European Respiratory Society Congress in Munich, Germany. U-BIOPRED highlights from the event include:
-initial evidence of distinct groups of patients in the U-BIOPRED study;
-an association between certain genetic variants and clinical traits;
-using an electronic nose to analyse the exhaled breath of children with asthma could identify different subtypes of asthma in children;
-the flu virus appears to exacerbate asthma more than the cold virus.
Links to these abstracts and more can be found on U-BIOPRED’s Twitter feed. Patients have been key in driving U-BIOPRED’s successes, and U-BIOPRED patient experts were also in attendance at the ERS Congress. One patient, Martine Puhl, recorded her experiences in two reports on the opening ceremony and the U-BIOPRED symposium.
(September 2014)

U-BIOPRED wins best practice award at BIO-IT World

IMI’s severe asthma project U-BIOPRED has won a best practice award in the research and drug discovery category at the Bio-IT World Conference and Expo in the US. The award highlights how U-BIOPRED has successfully ###used the tranSMART platform to integrate and analyse different types of data from diverse sources, and enable the secure sharing of data among over 30 project partners. U-BIOPRED is working to identify different types of severe asthma to ensure patients receive the right treatments. The project is using the tranSMART platform for its knowledge management needs; tranSMART is in turn being further developed by the IMI project eTRIKS for use by IMI and other projects.
Set up in 2003, the Bio-IT World awards recognise cutting-edge approaches to the use of information technology to advance basic biomedical research, drug discovery, and clinical trials.
   -   Watch a video of U-BIOPRED scientist Yannis Pandis explaining knowledge management in the project.
(May 2014)

Electronic nose sniffs out differences between severe asthma patients
IMI’s U-BIOPRED project has used an electronic nose platform to identify four clusters of severe asthma patients based on the pattern of molecules in their breath. The findings, presented at the European Respiratory Society’s Annual Congress in Barcelona, represent ###a first step towards the project’s goal of identifying distinct subtypes of severe asthma based on the extensive biological characterisation of patients. Elsewhere at the congress, the project released results demonstrating that people with severe asthma are less controlled by treatment than those with mild asthma. According to the team, 55% of adults with severe asthma regularly took corticosteroids yet showed greater airway obstruction and continued to suffer from exacerbations and other severe symptoms.
Commenting on the findings, project coordinator Peter Sterk of the University of Amsterdam said: ‘The findings of both these studies take us one step closer to understanding more about severe asthma. In order for us to help improve the lives of patients, we need to make a full biological and clinical “fingerprint” of each patient, by embarking on a huge analysis of data including a wide-range of samples from CT scans, to sputum samples, analysis of a person’s genetics and results from bronchoscopies. The U-BIOPRED project is doing that and we are confident that it will take us one step closer to developing personalised treatment for this condition.’
   -   Read the abstract of the electronic nose research (no. 3041)
   -   Read the abstract of the corticosteroid research (no 3029)
(October 2013)

U-BIOPRED hits patient recruitment target
IMI's U-BIOPRED project has achieved its goal of recruiting 1 025 people (including almost 300 children) into its pan-European study on severe asthma. ###Severe asthma is notoriously difficult to treat, and the aim of U-BIOPRED is to find out why. For their study, the researchers recruited different kinds of asthma patients, include non-smoking adults and children with severe and mild asthma and smokers with severe asthma, as well as small children with wheezing, and healthy adults. The study participants have provided blood and tissue samples, exhaled air samples, and reports of their symptoms. They have also undergone lung function tests and examinations of their airways. The researchers are now drawing on this data to build up a detailed picture (or ‘handprint’) of each individual’s condition. By comparing data from so many different people, the team hopes to identify groups of patients with similar handprints. These groups will allow researchers to define different kinds of severe asthma, paving the way towards personalised treatments for patients. 'We are now starting to perform analyses on the data,' explained project coordinator Peter Sterk of the University of Amsterdam. 'This is being done by a strong, collaborative effort – the most modern analytical and statistical technology is available and is being worked with during the interim analyses of the data'. Patients are heavily involved in the project; as well as taking part in the clinical study, they have provided advice on ethical, scientific, and communication issues, giving the patient's perspective throughout.
(April 2013)

IMI lung disease projects to present findings to press and patients
On 28 September IMI projects U-BIOPRED and PROactive and the European Lung Foundation will hold a special event for patients and the public.###IMI Executive Director Michel Goldman will open the event with a presentation on how Europe is responding to the needs of respiratory patients. Other talks will explain how patients and scientists are working together in the U-BIOPRED and PROactive projects and Marc Decramer, President of the European Respiratory Society, will discuss the roadmap for respiratory research in the years ahead. There will also be time for attendees to ask questions of some of Europe’s leading respiratory researchers. The event is part of the 2011 European Respiratory Society (ERS) Annual Congress in Amsterdam.
(September 2011)

U-BIOPRED asthma art contest winner announced
Dutch student Marije Kootstra has been named as the winner of the U-BIOPRED asthma art contest. The winning painting can be seen on the U-BIOPRED website. ###‘Asthma plays an important role in my life,’ explains Marije, who is 17. In order to control her condition, she takes 10 medicines, sees a specialist regularly and has undergone a nose operation as well as other treatments. Yet despite these efforts, Marije’s asthma is still not fully under control; in poor weather, she cannot cycle to school and so misses classes. She has even been hospitalised following severe asthma attacks. Nevertheless, Marije remains hopeful for the future. ‘I hope that with the right medicines I can again get my asthma back under control,’ she says. Marije wins a trip for two to Amsterdam, where she will pick up her prize at the opening ceremony of the European Respiratory Society meeting in September. U-BIOPRED is working to speed up the development of new, more effective treatments for severe asthma. Patients are strongly represented in the project through the participation of six patients’ organisations.
(July 2011)

Knowledge management, the (tran)smart way
Knowledge management is key to the success of many IMI projects, and the tranSMART system is proving a popular tool for this. TranSMART is a translational medicine platform based on open source software and data that was originally developed by Johnson & Johnson for its own projects. ###However, it quickly became clear that the system could be extremely useful for other groups. Today, tranSMART is used by research consortia on both sides of the Atlantic. The first IMI project to use tranSMART was U-BIOPRED, which is using it to collate data on asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) from four different companies, for example. Eventually, U-BIOPRED partners will be able to access the data and use it to test new hypotheses. Other ongoing projects that are implementing or about to implement tranSMART are OncoTrack, SAFE-T and BT Cure; some of the 3rd Call projects are also planning to use the system. Looking to the future, the 4th Call topic eTRIKS (European Translational Information & Knowledge Management Services) will support efforts to take tranSMART to the next level.
(July 2011)

U-BIOPRED recruits first adult into major asthma study
IMI project U-BIOPRED has recruited the first of over 1 000 people into a major new study of severe asthma. ###U-BIOPRED researchers will draw on data from blood and tissue samples, lung function tests, exhaled air samples and examinations of the airways, plus reports of people’s own experiences, to build up a detailed picture (or ‘handprint’) of each individual’s condition. By comparing data from hundreds of people, the team hopes to identify groups of patients with similar handprints. These groups will allow researchers to define different kinds of severe asthma, paving the way towards personalised treatments for patients. U-BIOPRED project coordinator Peter Sterk of the University of Amsterdam said that running such a study would have been “unthinkable” without IMI.
(May 2011)

U-BIOPRED – new findings demonstrate value of data sharing
Work in the U-BIOPRED project has proven the value of data sharing by generating an important result in asthma research. Both GSK and Pfizer were working on a similar animal model of severe asthma, but when data from both companies was combined, it quickly became clear that ###the model would not be as useful as was hoped. If they had continued working on their own, it would have taken the companies months to realise this. Data sharing in U-BIOPRED has since been given a further boost by the presence in the consortium of a new partner in the form of pharmaceutical company Centocor B.V., a member of the J&J group of companies. In addition to expertise, Centocor brings to the consortium a knowledge management system called TransMART. Elsewhere, U-BIOPRED has published research in the journal Thorax that will help to clarify the diagnosis of severe asthma, something that will help doctors to manage these patients more effectively. The paper provides information on what clinicians should check for when considering classifying a patient as having severe asthma. Developing more individualised characterisations of severe asthma contributes to U-BIOPRED’s goal of redefining severe asthma and lays the foundation for personalised treatments for severe asthma sufferers.
Finally, as part of its efforts to connect patients with researchers and clinicians, U-BIOPRED has launched an Asthma Art Contest. Anyone with severe asthma can enter the competition, and all art forms are welcome.
(April 2011)



  • Novartis Pharma AG, Basel, Switzerland
  • Laboratorios Almirall S.A., Barcelona, Spain
  • AstraZeneca AB, Södertälje, Sweden
  • Boehringer Ingelheim International GmbH, Ingelheim, Germany
  • Chiesi Farmaceutici S.p.A, Parma, Italy
  • GlaxoSmithKline Research and Development LTD, Brentford, UK
  • F. Hoffmann-La Roche AG, Basel, Switzerland
  • UCB Pharma SA, Brussels, Belgium
  • Centocor, a J&J company
  • Amgen NV, Brussels, Belgium
  • Merck Sharp & Dohme Corp, Rahway, US

Universities, Research Organisations, Public Bodies & Non-Profit

  • Academisch Medisch Centrum bij de Universiteit van Amsterdam, Amsterdam, Netherlands
  • The University of Southampton, Southampton, UK
  • Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine, London, UK
  • Università degli Studi di Catania, Catania, Italy
  • University of Rome ‘Tor Vergata’, Rome, Italy
  • Hvidovre Hospital, Hvidovre, Denmark
  • The Jagiellonian University Medical College, Krakow, Poland
  • Universität Bern, Bern, Switzerland
  • Semmelweis Egyetem, Budapest, Hungary
  • University of Manchester, Manchester, UK
  • Université de la Médietrranée, Aix-Marseille II, Marseille, France
  • Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft zur Förderung der angewandten Forschung e.V., München, Germany
  • Umeå University, Umea, Sweden
  • Universiteit Gent, Gent, Belgium
  • Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, Paris, France
  • Universita’ Cattolica Del Sacro Cuore, Milan, Italy
  • Københavns Universitet (University of Copenhagen), Copenhagen, Denmark
  • Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden
  • University of Nottingham, Nottingham, UK
  • Universitetet i Bergen, Bergen, Norway
  • Astma Fonds Longstichting, Leusden, the Netherlands
  • European Lung Foundation, Lausanne, Switzerland
  • Asthma UK, London, UK
  • European Federation of Asthma and Allergy Associations, Brussels, Belgium
  • Lega Italiana Anti Fumo – ONLUS, Catania, Italy
  • International Primary Care Respiratory Group, Aberdeen, UK


  • Synairgen Research Limited, Southampton, UK
  • Aerocrine AB, Solna, Sweden
  • BioSci Consulting, Maasmechelen, Belgium


  • Philips Electronics Nederland B.V., Eindhoven, the Netherlands

Facts & Figures

Start Date 01/10/2009
End Date 30/09/2015
IMI funding  9 935 501
EFPIA in-kind 14 574 652
Other   2 415 549
Total cost 26 925 702



Project Coordinator and Managing entity
Peter Sterk
Dept. Respiratory Medicine, F5-259
Academic Medical Centre
The Netherlands

Tel: +31 20 566 43 56
Email: p.j.sterk [AT]

Industry representative
Christopher Compton
Respiratory Franchise
Novartis Development
Novartis Pharma AG

Tel: +44 1403 324285
Email: chris.compton [AT]