The logic of biologic medicines: advancing care for people with immune-mediated conditions

The immune system is a powerful and complex function of the human body that is fundamental to maintaining a healthy life. But when things go wrong, and the immune system starts to attack the body as if it were a threat, or when the immune system is overactive, the results can be devastating, causing damage throughout the body. The resulting disease can be wide ranging, with symptoms just as varied. Symptoms may include pain, crushing fatigue and joint pain or other symptoms associated with the specific organs affected. The complexity of the immune system and the havoc it can wreak makes it challenging to find solutions for immune-mediated conditions, such as lupus, eosinophilic asthma and psoriasis. That’s where biologic medicines are evolving what treatment can potentially achieve for the millions affected by these conditions.

This video explains GSK’s approach to pioneering research to address the unmet needs of patients with immune-mediated diseases:

What exactly are biologic medicines?

Unlike medicines that are made through chemical processes, and often come in tablet or liquid form, biologics are medicines that are made from living material such as proteins and sugars.[1] These are the natural tools bodies use to carry out all the functions that are needed to thrive and be well. Because they are made from these natural materials, biologic medicines for immune-mediated conditions can be designed to target the part of the immune system that is not functioning as it should and block it from causing inflammation or injury to joints, skin and organs like the heart or kidneys.[2],[3] One of the key benefits of biologic medicines is that they can be precision targeted to the particular part of the immune system that is not working as it should.

In treating immune-mediated conditions, how are biologics different?

Immune-mediated diseases have long been difficult to treat. To be effective for these conditions, medicines need to strike a fine balance of addressing the part of the immune system that’s causing the problem, while not suppressing the immune system so much that they cause harm. This can be a problem with some non-targeted treatments and may be reduced with targeted treatments. However, it remains a challenge – one we have some of the brightest scientific minds working to solve. One common type of medicine used to treat immune-mediated conditions is oral corticosteroids (OCS), which work by reducing inflammation and pain. But because they act on the whole body, rather than a targeted area, they can have many side effects when used at high doses or over extended periods of time. Long term use of OCS can lead to a range of side effects including, but not limited to, severe tiredness, loss of appetite and muscle weakness, as well eye diseases (such as cataracts and glaucoma), bone fractures and even organ damage.[4],[5]

Biologic medicines target the underlying causes in the pathway of disease and, in doing so, research is now showing that they could have the potential to slow the progression of immune-related disease. In some cases, when used in the correct way, biologic medicines could lead to patients having reduced symptoms or potentially no symptoms, flare-ups or the need for OCS.[6]

Our research into biologic medicines could represent important advances in the treatment of immune-mediated disease as we look to further improve precision medicine.

Innovative science is making a difference

Scientists have spent years exploring ways to target the parts of the immune system that are not working correctly to bring better treatment options to people living with immune-mediated diseases. Biologic medicines may be the answer – by aiming to act on the precise biological cause (or causes) of the disease they also have the potential to minimise some of the harmful side effects associated with suppressing the entire immune system.

GSK has a history of bringing together science, technology and talent to deliver therapies for immune-related diseases. From eosinophil-driven respiratory disorders to diseases affecting joints, skin, kidneys, the brain and the nervous system – we are working to unlock the science of the immune system to discover new medicines.

We are focused on developing biologic medicines that harness the power of the immune system to modify the course of immune-mediated diseases—improving the lives of people who need better treatment options.


[1] U.S. Food and Drug Administration. “What Are "Biologics" Questions and Answers. Available online at: Last accessed: October 2022.

[2] WebMD. How Do Biologics Work? Available online at:,be%20more%20difficult%20to%20manage. Last accessed: October 2022.

[3] Her M and Kavanaugh A. Alterations in immune function with biologic therapies for autoimmune disease. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2016 Jan;137(1):19-27.

[4] American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology. Immunosuppressive Medication for the Treatment of Autoimmune Disease. Available online at: Last accessed: October 2022.

[5] Mayo Clinic. Prednisone and other corticosteroids. Available online at: Last accessed: October 2022.

[6] Kuek A, et al. Immunemediated inflammatory diseases (IMIDs) and biologic therapy: a medical revolution. Postgrad Med J. 2007 Apr; 83(978): 251–260.