Every Breath Matters: Addressing Unmet Needs in Respiratory Care

Published on: May 17, 2024


The treatment of respiratory diseases has drastically improved over the last 50 years, but despite progress made, including the development of biologic treatments, there continues to be considerable unmet needs and massive challenges that have not been resolved.1 This is why Sanofi is committed to leveraging its expertise in immunoscience and working to bring forward new paradigm-shifting treatments for respiratory diseases.

Instead of looking at immunology and “immunoscience” through the lens of a specific subset of therapeutic areas only (i.e., only respiratory, only dermatology), at Sanofi, we have longstanding expertise in vaccines to protect the immune system, and we have developed treatment options that sparked a paradigm shift in how we address specific chronic inflammatory diseases, such as asthma, atopic dermatitis, and chronic rhinosinusitis with nasal polyposis (CRSwNP). We are also exploring new investigational treatments in chronic inflammatory diseases such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and asthma. We now aim to go beyond, connecting the dots across most of the diseases in our pipeline. Our immune system is incredibly complex: it protects, modulates and arms us. We believe that deepening the understanding of how our immune system works for us – and sometimes against us – can help us combat many diseases.

Respiratory Diseases Pose Substantial Health and Economic Burden

Until a few years ago, there were limited options available to treat patients suffering from severe respiratory diseases.

“I once had a patient in her forties with severe asthma. Not many treatment options were available back then – she was taking steroids and had to come back and forth to the hospital. The medication had side effects and her symptoms would recur, so she waited longer and longer until her attacks would return. One time, she waited too long and sadly passed away,” shared a Sanofi researcher and former physician. “It is stories like hers that made me realize how critical scientific research in immunology is to help to advance diverse treatment options.”

When it comes to sheer physical ability, nothing hinders the body quite like the inability to breathe. Chronic respiratory diseases have a significant physical, psychological and economic impact on patients and caregivers, as well as an economic burden on the healthcare system.

Shifting the Treatment Paradigm in Respiratory Diseases

A lot has changed in respiratory care over the past several years including the emergence of biologic treatments which has transformed the way chronic inflammatory diseases are treated. Through innovation, Sanofi, alongside its partner Regeneron, has proven itself a leader in type 2 inflammation research, providing solutions for the treatment of various chronic inflammatory diseases.

But more research is needed. Inflammatory respiratory diseases are complex and not fully understood. Multiple mechanisms can cause the inflammation underlying these burdensome and limiting conditions, and patients have different needs. There is no one solution that fits everyone.

Using our expertise in immunology, Sanofi has established a pipeline of potential medicines that address multiple key inflammatory pathways. The goal is to create tailored treatment options addressing these individual patient needs. We aim to raise efficacy ceilings, intervene early in the disease and change its course.

We need more options for people who do not respond to current treatments. It is not enough to say ‘most’ people respond. It will only be good enough when everyone has a functional treatment that works for them.
Houman Ashrafian

Houman Ashrafian

Executive Vice President, Head of Research and Development

Driving Scientific Research to Address Unmet Needs in Respiratory Diseases

In asthma, we are combining different pathways that we believe could be effective and could increase efficacy, becoming more powerful together. For example, we are exploring an investigational novel nanobody VHH that combines targeting of IL-13 and TSLP, both key drivers of the underlying inflammation in respiratory diseases like asthma and COPD. A goal of our research is to determine if the combination of these targets could create better outcomes for patients than with one target alone.

Our researchers are also looking beyond type 2 inflammation to discover new solutions for patients with mixed inflammatory responses. Sanofi is exploring the potential of OX40-Ligand, a key immune regulator, as a target to stop inflammation at its root.

We are also investigating the potential of an oral inhibitor of Bruton’s tyrosine kinase (BTKi).9 We are analyzing its ability to potentially intervene earlier in the diseases of asthma patients whose disease is not well controlled with standard of care treatments.

Igniting the Next Wave of Innovations

Sanofi leverages some of the best R&D technology in the form of artificial intelligence and data analysis platforms, patient-centric clinical trials and — most importantly — passionate scientists who drive our innovative spirit.

As we continue to chase the miracles of science and unlock the potential of the immune system, we remain driven not by what, but by who is at the center of everything we do: the patient.

“As we look ahead to the future of respiratory disease treatment, I’m inspired by new potential advancements in the space,” said Ashrafian. “They support our goal of lessening the burden of disease on patients, so they don’t have to think about their disease anymore.”


Explore More

Taking Down Type 2 Inflammatory Disease

The Next Breath: Advancing Knowledge to Transform Asthma Care

The AI Revolution in Drug Discovery: Transforming the Way We Develop New Therapies


  • Chronic respiratory diseases. World Health Organization (WHO). Accessed April 22, 2024. https://www.who.int/health-topics/chronic-respiratory-diseases
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). World Health Organization (WHO). Published March 16, 2023. Accessed April 22, 2024. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/chronic-obstructive-pulmonary-disease-(copd)  
  • Larsen DL. The Quality of Care and Economic Burden of COPD in the United States: Considerations for Managing Patients and Improving Outcomes. Published online June 23, 2022. Accessed April 23, 2024. https://www.ahdbonline.com/articles/3223-the-quality-of-care-and-economic-burden-of-copd-in-the-united-states-considerations-for-managing-patients-and-improving-outcomes
  • COPD Trends Brief - Burden. American Lung Association. Accessed April 22, 2024. https://www.lung.org/research/trends-in-lung-disease/copd-trends-brief/copd-burden
  • Asthma. Published 4/52023. Accessed April 22, 2024. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/asthma
  • American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (ACAAI). Asthma Facts. ACAAI Public Website. Published January 28, 2023. Accessed April 22, 2024. https://acaai.org/asthma/asthma-101/facts-stat 
  • Guilleminault L, Mounié M, Sommet A, et al. The economic burden of asthma prior to death: a nationwide descriptive study. Front Public Health. 2024;12:1191788. doi:10.3389/fpubh.2024.1191788
  • Rozkiewicz D, Hermanowicz JM, Kwiatkowska I, Krupa A, Pawlak D. Bruton’s Tyrosine Kinase Inhibitors (BTKIs): Review of Preclinical Studies and Evaluation of Clinical Trials. Molecules. 2023;28(5):2400. doi:10.3390/molecules28052400