Professor Jacky Smith, University of Manchester: Repositioning an experimental gastrointestinal drug for chronic cough

In 2011, a novel agreement between the Medical Research Council and AstraZeneca gave academic researchers across the UK unprecedented access to 22 of our clinical and preclinical compounds.

One of these researchers is Jacky Smith, a Professor of Respiratory Medicine/Honorary Consultant, Centre for Respiratory and Allergy, University of Manchester. She was given access to AZD3355, a GABA-B receptor agonist, which had originally been studied for the treatment of heartburn by reducing gastroesophageal reflux. Professor Smith is now assessing whether the compound could become a new treatment for chronic cough.

Cough is the single most common reason for seeking medical care, with an estimated 12% of the population suffering from chronic coughing (lasting longer than eight weeks).

Up to 60 chronic cough patients are now being recruited. These patients will be given AZD3355 or a placebo and their coughs will then be monitored over a 24-hour period. The results will be synchronised with earlier reflux monitoring data, to see which patients have a link between reflux and cough.

The team’s findings on the role of GABA-B receptor mechanisms in the human cough reflex were recently presented at the British Thoracic Society meeting and also published in the Thorax journal.