One of the areas in which truly exciting advances are being made is asthma, one of the commonest chronic diseases on the planet.

Professor Stephen Holgate, CBE, Chair of the Research Committee of the British Lung Foundation, said: “We are about to embark on a new and exciting phase in medicine and in the case of asthma we are seeing new therapeutics which target the specific pathways of the condition.

“Up until now, we have used medicine to control the symptoms like wheezing when they come on, which is fine, but much more attention is now being paid to preventing it,

“There is some exciting work being done. The UBIOPRED project is a good example. It is a research project using information and samples from adults and children to learn more about different types of asthma to ensure better diagnosis and treatment and they have identified six or eight subtypes of asthma.

“That is exciting because current treatments treat just one or two so we can now do more to identify the specific nature of each subtype of the condition.

“There is also some interesting research which shows that children in the womb who are exposed to animals on farms are protected from allergies and asthma.

“We think that is down to pregnant mothers and young children being exposed to high concentrations of bio-organisms, so if we can find ways of reproducing the protective effects in susceptible families asthma and allergies might be prevented.

“I do think that the next five years will see a string of breakthroughs in the way we treat and prevent respiratory diseases.

“While COPD is behind asthma in terms of research, we could prevent a lot of it if we stopped smoking or intervened earlier in its development.”