A new drug to treat asthma and hay fever is about to undergo trials in humans.
The drug RPL554 apparently has the potential to effectively treat the respiratory diseases but without many of the side-effects most currently available drugs produce.
The trial will be carried out at the Centre for Human Drug Research (CHDR) in the Netherlands on as many as 60 people - it is expected to start in November and be completed by summer next year.
If these preliminary trials testing for safety and efficacy are successful, they will be followed by trials involving hundreds of patients; the drug could be available in three to four years' time.
The once-a-day treatment is already being regarded as a potential 'breakthrough' in the treatment of asthma and hay fever and will mean asthma sufferers will need only a single daily puff from their inhaler to stop the symptoms.
According to Dr. Clive Page, chairman of Verona Pharma, which is developing the treatment, the company is also investigating other novel compounds to tackle respiratory diseases based on anti-inflammatory substances found in starfish and a treatment for coughs.
The drug was initially invented by Sir David Jack who developed many of the asthma drugs currently in use.
Dr. Page who is a professor of pharmacology at King's College London, says RPL554 is a single molecule that does both jobs and should have fewer side effect profile and he says they are cautiously optimistic that they can develop a treatment where one puff will last all day.
Current treatments for asthma and hay fever sufferers are beta-agonists, which open up the airways, and inhaled steroids, which dampen down the inflammation that causes irritation - they are either taken together or singly.
But they have serious side effects, including possible harm to the cardiovascular system and the 'shakes' reported by many patients from excess use.
Experts say little progress has been made recently with alternative, effective and practical treatment options for a wide range of people with asthma and hay fever and by combining anti-inflammatory properties and the ability to overcome airway narrowing in a single long-lasting dose via the nose, RPL554 could offer real hope of a significant breakthrough.