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LifeArc’s challenge to combat bronchiectasis

PME talks to Catherine Kettleborough about the charity’s new £100m programme to fast-track scientific discoveries into new healthcare solutions

Catherine Kettleborough

Tell us about LifeArc’s Chronic Respiratory Infection Translational Challenge?
The LifeArc Chronic Respiratory Infection Translational Challenge is our new £100m programme, launched in autumn 2022, to accelerate scientific innovation for people living with bronchiectasis and cystic fibrosis. We’re partnering with patients, academics, charities, healthcare professionals and industry to fast-track scientific discoveries into new healthcare solutions to transform how chronic respiratory infections are detected, treated and managed.

What are your goals for the partnership between LifeArc and EMBARC?
LifeArc is partnering with the European Multicentre Bronchiectasis Audit and Research Collaboration (EMBARC) to improve healthcare for thousands of people across Europe living with bronchiectasis. During the three-year partnership, LifeArc will join more than a dozen organisations in a pan-European effort to deepen understanding of bronchiectasis and deliver new diagnostics and treatments for patients more quickly.

What are the skill sets that each organisation brings to the partnership?
LifeArc is one of the UK’s largest independent medical research charities. We work with some of the world’s leading thought leaders, life sciences organisations, scientists, charities and medical institutions to accelerate discoveries in next generation diagnostics, treatments and cures for people who need it most. EMBARC is an international collaboration of clinicians, health professionals, scientists, patients and industry partners dedicated to improving care and generating new knowledge in the field of bronchiectasis. Established in 2012, EMBARC has made a major contribution to our understanding of bronchiectasis and created the world’s largest bronchiectasis registry and biorepository with data and samples provided by over 20,000 people across 40 countries. By combining our expertise and resources, the new partnership aims to deliver breakthroughs for patients more quickly.

What causes bronchiectasis?
Bronchiectasis is a devastating, life-limiting, long-term condition that causes excess mucus build-up in the lungs, increasing the risk of infection and permanent lung damage. It can be triggered by respiratory and other illnesses but in most cases the cause is unclear. Bronchiectasis is the third largest chronic respiratory disease after asthma and COPD and it affects over 300,000 people across the UK and causes an estimated 1,500 deaths each year.

What are the symptoms?
Many people with bronchiectasis are caught in a vicious vortex of infection, inflammation and permanent lung damage. They experience persistent cough, breathlessness and severe fatigue. Many are infected with Pseudomonas aeruginosa or other pathogens that increase the risk of inflammation and lung damage. These chronic infections can cause dangerous flare-ups that require emergency hospital treatment at short notice and result in permanent lung damage, further increasing the risk of more flare-ups.

What are the current treatment options available to patients and how have they evolved in the last decade?
There is currently no licensed treatment for bronchiectasis. International guidelines recommend a variety of treatments targeting each component of the vortex of infection, inflammation and lung damage. However, most treatments do not have a strong evidence base due to a lack of large, randomised trials. More recent research suggests bronchiectasis is a complex, heterogenous disease and a one-size-fits-all approach to therapy is unlikely to be appropriate.

What are the key challenges patients with bronchiectasis face in their day-to-day lives?
Bronchiectasis can be life limiting and life shortening and has a significant impact on quality of life. The cycle of infection, inflammation and permanent lung damage can leave people unable to work or perform daily tasks. They can find themselves admitted to hospital with little notice because of respiratory infections and flare-ups, can spend hours each day taking medication to try to control their condition and see their lung function deteriorate over time to the point they may need a lung transplant.

How prevalent is bronchiectasis in the UK?
The chances of being diagnosed, hospitalised or dying from bronchiectasis vary depending on your gender, socio-economic status and where you live. About 35% more women than men are diagnosed with bronchiectasis each year. However, more men die from the disease. The age-adjusted mortality rate for people living with bronchiectasis is 1,437.7 per 100 ,000 for women and 1,914.6 per 100, 000 for men. In contrast to other lung diseases, bronchiectasis is more commonly diagnosed in affluent areas and least likely to be diagnosed in deprived areas. There are significant regional variations in bronchiectasis diagnosis rates, hospitalisations and deaths.

Bronchiectasis has been increasingly recognised as an under-diagnosed and under-researched condition. How is LifeArc working to change that?
We’re kicking off our £100m Translational Challenge by committing £10m to fund up to five collaborative projects that seek to repurpose existing therapies and compounds as new treatments for bronchiectasis and cystic fibrosis. The £10m funding call aims to identify existing drugs or compounds that can be rapidly repurposed as treatments for people living with bronchiectasis and CF. Further information is available on the LifeArc website (visit

Catherine Kettleborough is Chronic Respiratory Infection Translational Challenge Leader at LifeArc

20th February 2023

Catherine Kettleborough is Chronic Respiratory Infection Translational Challenge Leader at LifeArc

20th February 2023

From: Research


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