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ATS recognizes curious minds...

Steve Yancey, GSK Vice President of Medicines Development, and Dr. Hector Ortega, GSK Medical Expert, were recognized by the American Thoracic Society (ATS) with its highest award -- The Research Innovation and Translation Achievement Award -- for their work on the development of the first anti-IL5 biologic for patients with severe asthma who have an eosinophilic phenotype.

Steve Yancey and Dr. Hector Ortega
Steve Yancey, GSK Vice President of Medicines Development, (L) and Dr. Hector Ortega, GSK Medical Expert (R)

The award, presented at the 2018 American Thoracic Society Conference in San Diego, recognizes outstanding contributions to the advancement of respiratory care which provide tangible benefits to patients. Steve was the project lead and Hector the physician lead for the development of the treatment, which took nearly two decades.

The medicine’s development has been told before (How curious minds saved a medicine from being left in the lab), but bears repeating. The first large trial of this biologic in another therapeutic area showed no benefit, but despite the disappointing result, key external investigators, including Dr. Ian Pavord and Dr. Frederick Hargreave, along with GSK, staff saw an opportunity to learn from the trial’s failure and regrouped to assess the medicine's efficacy in a specific population of asthma patients -- those with severe asthma and markers of eosinophilic inflammation.

Fast-forward to November 2015 and the treatment became the first anti-IL5 biologic to be approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of severe asthma with an eosinophilic phenotype.

To be recognized by the American Thoracic Society speaks to the commitment and dedication of both Steve and Hector. Their work over the past decade included:

  • Investigating the role of eosinophils in asthma
  • Recognizing and validating eosinophils as a contributing factor to severe asthma
  • Incorporating blood eosinophils as a biomarker to identify patients in clinical trials
  • Conducting clinical trials in the appropriate asthma population to confirm that this novel approach would help the severe asthma patient

But most importantly, the recognition of Steve and Hector by the American Thoracic Society signifies that their most important contribution to the respiratory field is to help patients breathe better.