Help needed to deliver a potential cure for asthma

14 June 2023

QIMR Berghofer is appealing for help to progress development of a remarkable new drug that has the potential to cure asthma, a breakthrough that would transform the lives of millions of people reliant on current medications that only partially suppress the symptoms.

This game changer for asthma sufferers is an anti-inflammatory protein synthesised from an extraordinary natural product. The parasitic hookworm produces and excretes the protein in an act of self-preservation to repair damage it causes to the gut and prolong the life of its host.

Female scientist in white lab coat in a laboratory looking closely at a small vial she is holding up

Associate Professor Severine Navarro

QIMR Berghofer Mucosal Immunology Team Head Associate Professor Severine Navarro has isolated and produced this protein, known as Anti Inflammatory Protein 2 (AIP-2), which has delivered remarkable results in pre-clinical models.

Laboratory tests show that AIP-2 is extremely powerful in treating asthma and even repairing lung damage.

A/Professor Navarro believes AIP-2 is a game-changer for people with asthma.

“I have never come across a treatment that was so long-lasting and so disease modifying. In the lab, AIP-2 is essentially a cure,” she said.

“I think it really could change the lives of millions of people and children in particular. All these people who rely on bronchodilators and taking corticosteroids on a regular basis could live a life free of medication.”

Current medications to suppress asthma

Despite the incredibly promising results, more funding is desperately needed to take AIP-2 from the laboratory and into clinical trials. QIMR Berghofer is appealing for public donations to advance this potentially life-changing treatment.

1 in 10 Australians have asthma, a potentially life-threatening condition where the airways narrow and restrict breathing. There is currently only medications to manage symptoms and they carry side effects.

“We want to bring this potential cure to the clinic. We want to bring this to patients. Our goal right now is to get this ready for a phase I clinical trial but that takes a lot of money.

“We really hope that Australians will help us to move this project forward so we can change the lives of people with asthma that much sooner,” A/Prof Navarro said.

The treatment centres on two key types of immune cells, dendritic cells and T-cells, which are crucial to regulating our immune system.

Hookworms secrete an anti-inflammatory protein

When the AIP-2 protein enters the mesenteric lymph nodes alongside the small intestine it is absorbed by the dendritic cells which are then reprogrammed to transform T-cells into Regulatory T-cells (Tregs). These Tregs are essential to prevent our immune system from going into overdrive and wrongly reacting to antigens such as allergens.

“AIP-2 appears to re-educate the immune system and restore natural immune tolerance stopping the inappropriate immune response that leads to inflammation in the lungs,” A/Professor Navarro said.

Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital Thoracic Physician Dr Alistair Cook said it would be very exciting to have a new treatment option for asthma patients.

“It is an unfortunate reality that people can die of asthma. It’s not unheard of for people with asthma, which previously would have been classed as mild asthma, to present to hospital with a life threatening asthma attack.

“The treatments we have are things that suppress the symptoms rather than cure the asthma so it would be a huge benefit to patients and the health service if we had an additional tool to manage asthma,” Dr Cook said.

Asthma sufferer Krystal Harris with her daughter

Disability support worker Krystal Harris has struggled with asthma her entire life.

The mum of a blended family of six children said she had lost count of the number of times the ambulance had been called to help her.

“It’s really awful feeling like you’re suffocating. I’ve tried pretty much every different preventer that you could possibly think of. I get anxious if I don’t have a puffer nearby. It does make me scared not knowing what the future holds,” she said.

“This treatment would be a massive game changer that could really help people like myself and millions of others. It would improve my quality of life. If you have the opportunity to give, please donate. You might change the lives of asthma sufferers.”

QIMR Berghofer will be hosting a special Facebook live event “Ask Me Anything Asthma” on Tuesday 20 June at 12pm where A/Professor Severine Navarro and Dr Alistair Cook will answer questions from viewers in real-time. To register, visit the QIMR Berghofer Facebook page at

The preclinical testing of AIP-2 has had astonishing results in treating asthma, but it could potentially have broader applications in other conditions such as hay fever, food allergy, and chronic bowel diseases such as coeliac, Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis.

To find out more about the QIMR Berghofer fundraising appeal to help advance this potentially game-changing asthma treatment visit Asthma Game-changer Appeal – QIMR Berghofer


Bridie Barry
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M +61 428 592 194