Usher Institute

Asthma UK Centre for Applied Research

For the last 10 years, this UK-wide network of researchers, clinicians and people with asthma has conducted world-leading evidence-based research which can prove life-changing for people with asthma. The centre focuses on applied research methods and data science to drive forward asthma policy, practice and research.

Young person breathing happily with arms open in the fresh air

Starting in 2014, the Centre was funded by Asthma UK, now Asthma + Lung UK. It has: 

  • Established a vibrant, patient-centred, multi-site, multi-disciplinary Centre of excellence 

  • Built a collaborative network of the best applied asthma researchers from across the UK 

  • Created strategic, coordinated programmes of research to reduce asthma attacks, to maximise the benefits of treatment and empower people to take control of their asthma 

  • Supported new interventions, evaluated health policy initiatives and service delivery innovations to reduce asthma attacks, hospitalisations and deaths.  

GP explaining an inhaler to patient

A Collaborative Research Environment 

The Centre has a multi-disciplinary, team science approach, without a limiting hierarchy. The network has grown to 22 diverse academic, NHS and other collaborating institutions with multiple individuals wishing to openly work together.  

As well as involving people with lived experience of asthma, the Centre attracts qualitative and quantitative researchers from a wide variety of areas. There are members from a range of educational and work backgrounds with different skills and expertise which include medicine, psychology, data science and engineering, and different methodological specialities, like clinical trials, behavioural interventions, implementation research and statistics.  

Its connected nature has stimulated further initiatives beyond the Centre including multiple members being part of the HDR-UK (Health Data Research UK)-funded BREATHE Data Research Hub, and more recently the HDR-UK Research Driver Programme focussed on Inflammation and Immunity.

collage of pictures of the team, ppi members and students at an event
Left: Centre members attending their Annual Scientific Meeting, Right upper: Patient and Public Involvement members are at the heart of what the Centre does, Right lower: The Centre provides a safe and supportive environment for researchers and people with asthma to drive change in applied asthma research

Pushing the Boundaries of Patient and Public Involvement 

Working together with people with asthma has always been at the heart of the Centre, and Patient and Public Involvement (PPI) in research has had a culture shift during the lifetime of the Centre. It has been at the forefront of this shift, through supporting the National Institute for Health and Care Research evaluate all six of their UK Standards for Public Involvement in Research, and by publishing guidelines on how to fund staff to support the facilitation of meaningful PPI.  

The Next Generation of Asthma Researchers 

The Centre has supported and trained over 50 PhD students, MD students, and Early Career Researchers. It is developing the next generation of interdisciplinary applied asthma researchers and championing future leaders.  

The training programme is a unique offering helping develop comprehensive skills all within a safe and friendly environment. All students require supervisors from another university, which has fostered collaborative practices, both for students and supervisors.  

Some of the Centre’s alumni have become co-applicants on major collaborative projects, gaining the confidence, training and networking through the network.    

Moving Asthma up the Agenda 

A key impact from the Centre has been its influence in helping bring funding into asthma research. Beyond the initial grants of just under £4 million over 10 years, it has collectively generated more than £83,000,000 of external research grant monies across 106 grants through Centre co-applicants at partner and affiliate institutions.   

The Centre has produced over 650 cutting-edge publications, pushing forward the applied asthma knowledge base. These outputs have influenced:  

  • researchers at national and international conferences;  

  • policymakers in UK and devolved nations’ parliaments;  

  • industry partners to innovate and develop health-based technologies and; 

  • clinical practices through guideline development groups and training materials for healthcare professionals. 

The Centre is nearing the end of its 10 years of funding from Asthma + Lung UK and is looking to extend its collaboration and influence to other respiratory conditions areas beyond asthma.   

photo of Aziz Sheikh and Chris Griffiths and the AUKCAR logo

Ten years ago, we would never have thought we could have such a strong collaborative network of researchers working to make real-world change for the benefit of people living with asthma. We hope to see this supportive and collaborative network continue and help create a world where people living with asthma can do so with the best quality of life.

Professors Sir Aziz Sheikh and Chris Griffiths Asthma UK Centre for Applied Research co-Directors

Asthma UK Centre for Applied Research website