University of Wisconsin
School of Medicine and Public Health

Inner City Asthma Consortium Receives $70M for Continuation of Research

The Inner City Asthma Consortium (ICAC), a nation-wide multi-disciplinary research team led by William Busse, MD, professor, Allergy, Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, will receive $70M in funding from NIH-NIAID over seven years. This is the largest research award received to date by the School of Medicine and Public Health.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over 25 million people nationwide have been diagnosed with asthma, including 7 million children, with 1 in 12 children now affected. Costs related to asthma in the US now reach approximately $56B annually. Substances present in urban areas of poverty, such as cockroach or mouse antigens, have been identified as environmental triggers for asthma. “The truth is that you are more likely to suffer from asthma in this country if you are part of a minority, live in the inner city, have high social stress and are socioeconomically disadvantaged,” said Dr. Busse. “Our research is crucial to reversing this health disparity and helping children, no matter where they live, manage the often-debilitating reality of asthma."

Since 2002, ICAC has conducted research to assess environmental factors contributing to asthma and to identify immune-based therapies that reduce severity of the disease. ICAC Phase I (2002-2009) and ICAC Phase II (2009-2014) achieved several significant research milestones, including the Inner City Anti-IgE Therapy for Asthma (ICATA) trial. A total of 419 patients received NIH guidelines-based asthma therapy with the addition of either placebo or omalizumab therapy (a monoclonal antibody that targets IgE). ICAC researchers observed that patients receiving omalizumab exhibited improved control of asthma symptoms.

Another ICAC effort has been theUrban Environment and Childhood Asthma (URECA) Study. The URECA Study enrolled approximately 500 inner-city children at birth in order to identify genetic, environmental, and immunologic risk factors for asthma. ICAC Phase III will allow continuation of the URECA Study, yielding longitudinal data on participants from birth through ages 14 to 16. These data will allow researchers to study the immunologic basis of childhood asthma, the onset of disease during adolescence, and the events correlated with remission. 

An additional objective of ICAC Phase III will be to determine whether administration of environmental antigens (such as cockroach antigen alone or in combination with mouse, dog, or house dust antigens) provides effective immunologic desensitization, thereby shifting the immune response from allergy to tolerance.

In addition to Dr. Busse, other UW-Madison co-directors of ICAC include James Gern, professor of pediatrics and medicine, SMPH, and Christine Sorkness, PharmD, RPh, professor (CHS), School of Pharmacy. Nine clinical sites, two basic research sites, and a Statistical and Clinical Coordinating Center participate in the consortium.

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