Despite massive investments in the development of novel treatments for heterogeneous diseases such as COPD, the resources spent have only benefited a fraction of the population treated. Personalized health care to guide selection of a suitable patient population already in the clinical development of new compounds could offer a solution. This review discusses past successes and failures in drug development and biomarker research in COPD, describes research in COPD phenotypes and the required characteristics of a suitable biomarker for identifying patients at higher risk of progression, and examines the role of extracellular matrix proteins found to be upregulated in COPD. Novel biomarkers of connective tissue remodeling that may provide added value for a personalized approach by detecting subgroups of patients with active disease suitable for pharmacologic intervention are discussed.