A diverse crowd of discovery scientists, clinicians and healthcare professionals met earlier this month at St Anne's College, Oxford, for the first Arthritis Therapy Acceleration Programme (A-TAP) workshop.
A-TAP was launched in 2017 to speed up the development of new therapeutics for inflammatory disease. The initiative brings broad expertise from the Universities of Oxford and Birmingham together with healthcare professionals and their patients, from seven NHS centres across the M40 corridor.
Setting the tone, A-TAP lead and Director of Clinical Research at the Kennedy Institute, Professor Chris Buckley said "These are exciting times for experimental medicine. We have new drugs and new ways of designing clinical trials and combining the two in this innovative way will speed up the delivery of medicines to those who need it the most."
In his opening remarks, Prof Buckley also highlighted one of A-TAP's key goals - to build infrastructure and expertise to enable "basket trials", where new drugs are tried out in multiple diseases simultaneously. The drugs will be assessed not only on their impact on the symptoms of diseases, but crucially also on how they change the processes within the cells linked to the disease.
This is particularly relevant for complex inflammatory diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease, where common defects in immune pathways can underlie different types of disease.
A-TAP will initially focus on four inflammatory diseases: rheumatoid arthritis, Sjogren's Syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease and spondyloarthropathy. Workshop participants discussed how patient tissue samples and NHS data are being analysed over time to better understand the causes of disease onset and progression. This will facilitate clinical trials that select subgroups of patients most likely to benefit from therapy across disease types. This "stratified pathology" approach is already used in the cancer field with promising results.
The workshop also considered trial design, data collection and storage, and appropriate biological endpoints to measure how drugs affect the underlying cause of disease in tissues.
A-TAP is supported by a £7M funding award from the Kennedy Trust for Rheumatology Research. It benefits from basic science expertise at the Kennedy Institute, NDORMS (Oxford) and translational research capabilities at the Botnar Research Centre, NDORMS (Oxford) and the Institute of Translational Medicine (University of Birmingham).
Researchers or industry partners interested in learning more about A-TAP should contact A-TAP Operations Manager Dr Claire Potter.