Two Networks of Centres of Excellence (NCEs), the Centre of Excellence for the Prevention of Organ Failure (PROOF Centre) and AllerGen NCE (Allergy, Genes and Environment Network of Centres of Excellence), are working together to develop blood tests that will speed up clinical trials investigating the effectiveness of drugs treating allergic disease.

Taking advantage of the biomarker development expertise of the PROOF Centre, researchers will use blood samples obtained from the AllerGen Clinical Investigator Collaborative (CIC) to identify molecular signals predictive of chronic inflammatory responses in allergic asthmatic adults. Individuals with allergic asthma respond differently to allergen exposure such as pollen, mites, or molds. While some develop an isolated early response, others go on to develop a late response characterized by severe inflammation of the airways that can only be partly reversed by existing drugs.

The discovery of these molecular signals, also called biomarkers, will allow for the effective monitoring of promising therapeutics for allergic asthma. Such biomarkers, implemented via a simple blood test, will identify subjects who are late asthmatic responders so that they can be pre-selected for clinical trials that examine how effective new pharmacological interventions are in attenuating inflammatory responses to allergen exposure. Consequently, the selection process for recruiting asthmatic subjects into clinical trials will be quicker and less costly.

At the same time, the development of a blood test that can accurately predict late phase allergic responses could be groundbreaking , as this fundamentally different response is believed to contribute to chronic airways inflammation and uncontrolled disease.

Currently, over 50% of Canadian families are directly or indirectly affected by asthma and allergic diseases. Allergic disease place tremendous psychosocial and economic burdens on both Canadians and the healthcare system, costing up to $15 billion annually in emergency department visits, prescribed medications and productivity losses at school and work.

The PROOF Centre and AllerGen NCE anticipate completing the development and validation of a biomarker panel that can predict an asthmatic individual’s response to allergen exposure, and a biomarker panel that can diagnose a late allergic response, by early 2014.