British-Swedish drugmaker AstraZeneca has signed an agreement with healthcare firm Abbott to develop new companion diagnostic tests to identify patients with severe asthma.

As part of the deal, Abbott will develop and commercialize diagnostic tests to measure serum levels of the proteins periostin and dipeptidyl peptidase-4 (DPP4), which were identified as potential predictive biomarkers of up-regulated IL-13 in severe asthma.

Abbott will develop the tests in conjunction with AstraZeneca’s Phase III trial of tralokinumab, a potential treatment for patients with severe and inadequately controlled asthma.

Tralokinumab has been developed by AstraZeneca’s biologics research and development arm MedImmune.

MedImmune respiratory, inflammation and autoimmunity innovative medicines unit head and senior vice-president Bing Yao said: "This partnership with Abbott to develop companion diagnostics for tralokinumab is an important step in delivering on our ambition to bring innovative options for patients who continue to suffer with severe asthma."

The Phase III trial will assess the safety and effectiveness of tralokinumab in reducing the rate of asthma exacerbations in adults and adolescents with severe and inadequately controlled asthma despite receiving inhaled corticosteroids plus long-acting ß2-agonist.

In addition, the study will evaluate the effect of tralokinumab on lung function, patient-reported asthma symptoms and quality of life and investigate whether serum periostin or DPP4 could identify patients who are most likely to benefit from tralokinumab.