Call for Respiratory Epigenetic Targets

Asthma UK, AstraZeneca, British Lung Foundation and MRC Technology have joined forces to fund drug discovery collaborations to accelerate research in the field of respiratory epigenetics and develop new treatments for severe asthma and COPD.

What are you looking for?

We’re looking for epigenetics targets or mechanisms associated with either: respiratory disease including COPD, asthma and exacerbated asthma through infections; or immunomodulation and inflammation, e.g. those determining T cell or macrophage phenotypes.

We’re looking to work with researchers with expertise in epigenetics, respiratory disease biology or both, who can bring enabling assays, reagents and disease models to the collaboration.

What exactly are you offering?

After assessing that your project is within scope for the initiative, you will be invited to complete a short form outlining the key details about the target and its disease linkage.

Assay development
Our biologists develop new industry standard assays or adapt pre-existing assays necessary for screening, hit confirmation and functional characterisation of new molecules.

Our scientists will use a variety of approaches to find novel hits as starting points for a medicinal chemistry campaign. This may include rational design based on structural biology, fragment screening and high throughput screening. AstraZeneca and MRCT will be contributing proprietary compound collections for screening in this initiative.

Hit to lead optimisation
Our medicinal chemists develop structure-activity relationships (SAR) to improve the potency, solubility and physico-chemical properties of hits identified during the screening phase to turn them into drug-like molecules.

Proof of concept
Candidate molecules are tested in relevant models of respiratory disease, which may include animal models and human tissues/cells.

We develop novel IP and a robust supporting data package suitable for partnering.

How does the application process work?

The form will be evaluated by a panel of the organisations involved, as well as external epigenetics and respiratory disease experts. The panel will look at various criteria, such as scientific rationale, feasibility and commercial potential. All applicants will receive detailed feedback. Successful projects will move through to the next phase of review.

Drug discovery proposal
Our team will prepare a collaborative drug discovery project proposal with you and include details of the project plan. Proposals are reviewed by the same panel as triage. Again, all applicants will receive detailed feedback from the panel to help guide further research. Successful projects will move forward to feasibility studies.

A joint project team will be assembled, composed of advisers from the organisations involved and scientists from MRCT and the academic’s lab. MRCT commences feasibility work (e.g. assay development) and will agree the terms of the collaboration with you and your organisation at the same time.


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To discuss a potential application please call or contact Meera Swami at MRC Technology: Tel: 01438 544 087
Or email:

About the organisations involved

Asthma UK is the UK’s leading asthma research charity. The research we support helps us understand the causes of asthma, reduce asthma attacks, find new treatments and hopefully find a cure. We will be funding eligible projects from this call to develop new treatments for asthma.

AstraZeneca is a global, science-led biopharmaceutical company that focuses on the discovery, development and commercialisation of prescription medicines, primarily for the treatment of diseases in three therapy areas – respiratory, cardiovascular & metabolic diseases and oncology.

British Lung Foundation is the only UK charity looking after the nation’s lungs. Together, we’re making sure that one day everyone will breathe clean air with healthy lungs. We are supporting the call with access to our network of experts and looking to fund eligible projects.

MRC Technology (MRCT) is an independent life science medical research charity committed to improving positive patient outcomes everywhere. We help academic partners develop potential targets in our dedicated drug discovery laboratories.