Using Biologics to Treat Asthma Goes Beyond Symptoms to Target Causes


using biologics to treat asthma
While treatment options exist for patients with mild to moderate forms of asthma, the same cannot be said for people with more severe cases. How can using biologics to treat asthma help this demographic?
Image source: Flickr CC user Christian Guthier

As humans, we often take many things in life for granted, including the ability to breathe. But for many people, this seemingly small capacity is not so minor. Asthma afflicts approximately 300 million worldwide, of which a substantial fraction are children. The condition has no cure and like many chronic diseases, management depends on addressing the symptoms rather than the underlying cause. In most cases, using traditional asthma medicine—such as the recognizable inhaler—is enough. But for 5% of patients with asthma, current treatment options fail to mitigate the symptoms. As a result, the inadequate symptom control restricts their ability to breathe easily, increasing their risks of hospitalization or even death.1

In this era of personalized treatment options, patients with moderate to severe cases of asthma are looking beyond current therapies to improve their quality of life. Given the technologies at our disposal, finding ways to support this specific patient population should be possible. Using biologics to treat asthma seems like a logical conclusion. After all, studies have demonstrated the potential of combination biologic therapy to treat lung cancer, so why not use biotherapeutics to address another respiratory condition?

Using Biologics to Treat Asthma Depends on Addressing Underlying Causes

If treating symptoms are not enough to mitigate moderate to severe asthma cases, the next logical step would involve looking at ways to address the inflammatory pathways that lead to airway constriction. Because of the ability to effect change at a cellular level, using biologics to treat asthma is promising in these hard-to-treat cases. In the United States, there is currently only one biologic drug approved by the FDA to treat asthma. Thanks to this drug, patients who receive an injection biweekly or monthly see a decrease in the number of allergens in their system, which subsequently leads to fewer attacks.2

One successful biologic drug, however, is not enough to treat the entire unhelped patient population, given the variety of factors. For instance, severe cases of asthma typically fall into one of two phenotypes: allergic and eosinophilic. But in addition to these phenotypes, therapies need to take into account the age of a patient. The same treatment that’s safe to use in an adult may be inappropriate for a child. The flexibility and customization offered by biotherapeutics is another reason why using biologics to treat asthma is an attractive option.

The Success of Using Biologics to Treat Asthma Relies on Antibody Customization

The majority of asthma biotherapeutics—both approved and currently under study—are monoclonal antibodies that bind to factors crucial to inflammatory pathways. Developing successful antibodies requires significant investment, however. Life science companies interested in adding asthma biotherapeutics to their catalog will need to take a few considerations into account. For example, antibody R&D generates large amounts of data. Research firms will need to not only process this information efficiently, they will also need to understand it effectively to apply crucial insights to the development process.

Likewise, researchers need the capability to analyze activity data early in the R&D workflow. How else can they determine the efficacy of a potential antibody? In the case of asthma, if a drug candidate doesn’t bind to a factor in sufficient numbers, it may not effectively treat the disease. In fact, the efficacy of a potential biologic drug should not hinge only on whether it makes breathing easier but also on whether it’s better at treating asthma than traditional methods. Biologics administration is generally more invasive than traditional asthma medicine, so the benefits of biotherapeutics should outweigh the downside. Otherwise, questions may be raised later if no additional benefit is found.3

We’re still in the early days of using biologics to treat asthma. With only one currently approved drug, there’s a high probability that more will be needed to help unresponsive patients with moderate to severe cases. And given the wide age range of afflicted people, different formulations will be necessary to treat patients safely. Despite these concerns, though, life sciences firms have the ability to improve the quality of life for many people, especially with the right set of tools.

BIOVIA Biologics is an integrated suite of tools that can support life sciences firms in their efforts to develop much-needed therapies for underserved patient populations. With the ability to manage high volume antibody data and analyze activity data, the capabilities and features can help researchers determine developability early in the R&D process. Does an antibody candidate have the potential to bind to an important cellular pathway target? Can it do so effectively enough to demonstrate a positive benefit in disease treatment? The Biologics digital solution provides the tools to discover the answers to these questions and more. If you’re interested in learning how this software can aid your organization’s R&D processes, please contact us today.

  1. “FDA Panel Backs Reslizumab for Adults With Severe Asthma,” December 10, 2015,
  2. “Biologics for asthma: Attacking the source of the disease, not the symptoms,” November 5, 2015,
  3. “Mepolizumab has no hint of added benefit in eosinophilic asthma,” May 3, 2016,