University of Arizona’s BIO5 Institute Announces Collaboration with Johnson & Johnson Innovation to Explore Novel Asthma Solutions

Contact: Lisa Romero  ▪ 520.626.9598    

TUCSON, Ariz., June 11, 2015  –– The BIO5 Institute announced today a research collaboration with Johnson & Johnson Consumer & Personal Products and Janssen Biotech, Inc., One of the Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson, in an agreement facilitated by Johnson & Johnson Innovation, California, that will leverage ground-breaking discovery research to determine environmental factors that underlie asthma and allergies to aid in the development of innovative treatment and prevention approaches.

While asthma is known to have a genetic component, the recent dramatic increase in its prevalence across westernized countries cannot be due to this factor alone, and suggests that environment plays a major role. The most prevalent childhood disease, asthma affects more than 278 million people worldwide and predisposes individuals to a range of serious consequences later in life. Yet, current approved therapies address symptoms and do not halt disease progression.

The critical nature of early childhood environmental exposures in asthma development has been well illustrated in previous studies demonstrating strong protection against asthma in children raised on traditional animal farms in Alpine Europe and in the United States.

University of Arizona researchers, in collaboration with Johnson & Johnson Consumer & Personal Products and Janssen immunology scientists will conduct studies with the aim to identify which specific compounds may be protective against asthma or allergies.

Fernando Martinez, MD, UA Regents’ professor of pediatrics and director of both the BIO5 Institute and the Arizona Respiratory Center said, “This important study seeks to determine which environmental factors predispose for – or protect against – respiratory diseases like asthma. As a result, we will know which exposures ought to be avoided, and which natural environmental products could be transformed into medicines that promote lung health and prevent asthma.”

Principal investigators on the study include Martinez, as well as Donata Vercelli, M.D., UA professor of cellular and molecular medicine, and Shane Snyder, PhD, UA professor of chemical and environmental engineering who holds joint appointments in the Colleges of Agriculture and Public Health. All are BIO5 members.

According to Martinez, “Finding the links between genetic disposition and environmental triggers makes the pairing of clinical practice and basic research all the more important.” Interdisciplinary, translation-minded entities like the BIO5 Institute and the Arizona Respiratory Center encourage colleagues from different backgrounds to collaborate on ideas and protocols that address both scientific and clinical applications. The UA is focused on creating the type of environment, facilities, and collaborations needed to make outcome-based research a reality.”


About BIO5

The BIO5 Institute at the University of Arizona mobilizes top researchers in agriculture, engineering, medicine, pharmacy and science to find creative solutions to humanity’s most pressing health and environmental challenges. Since 2001, this interdisciplinary approach has been an international model of how to conduct collaborative research, and has resulted in improved food crops, innovative diagnostics and devices, and promising new therapies. Learn more at

Release Date: 
Jun 11 2015 - 1:00pm
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