A biological marker (biomarker) is a physical sign or laboratory measurement that can serve as an indicator of biological or pathophysiological processes or as a response to a therapeutic intervention. An applicable biomarker possesses the characteristics of clinical relevance (sensitivity and specificity for the disease) and is responsive to treatment effects, in combination with simplicity, reliability and repeatability of the sampling technique. Presently, there are several biomarkers for asthma and allergic rhinitis that can be obtained by non-invasive or semi-invasive airway sampling methods meeting at least some of these criteria. In clinical practice, such biomarkers can provide complementary information to conventional disease markers, including clinical signs, spirometry and PC(20)methacholine or histamine. Consequently, biomarkers can aid to establish the diagnosis, in staging and monitoring of the disease activity/progression or in predicting or monitoring of a treatment response. Especially in (young) children, reliable, non-invasive biomarkers would be valuable. Apart from diagnostic purposes, biomarkers can also be used as (surrogate) markers to predict a (novel) drug's efficacy in target populations. Therefore, biomarkers are increasingly applied in early drug development. When implementing biomarkers in clinical practice or trials of asthma and allergic rhinitis, it is important to consider the heterogeneous nature of the inflammatory response which should direct the selection of adequate biomarkers. Some biomarker sampling techniques await further development and/or validation, and should therefore be applied as a "back up" of established biomarkers or methods. In addition, some biomarkers or sampling techniques are less suitable for (very young) children. Hence, on a case by case basis, a decision needs to be made what biomarker is adequate for the target population or purpose pursued. Future development of more sophisticated sampling methods and quantification techniques, such as - omics and biomedical imaging, will enable detection of adequate biomarkers for both clinical and research applications. (C) 2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.