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Oxford is the newest partner of the national Research into Inflammatory Arthritis Centre Versus Arthritis (RACE) which has been awarded continued funding of nearly £2m over the next five years from Versus Arthritis.

RACE academic leads (from left to right): Profs Karim Raza (Birmingham); Christopher Buckley (Oxford); Iain McInnes (Director, Glasgow); John Isaacs (Newcastle)

RACE was first established as a collaboration between the Universities of Birmingham, Glasgow and Newcastle in 2014 to find out more about the causes of rheumatoid arthritis, a serious, inflammatory, auto-immune condition that affects the joints leading to chronic pain and disability. Oxford joins the partnership as part of renewed funding from Versus Arthritis, based on the ongoing collaborative research between scientists at the Kennedy Institute with colleagues in Birmingham, Glasgow and Newcastle.

Speaking of the partnership Professor Chris Buckley, Director of Clinical Research at the Kennedy Institute said:“Translational research into inflammatory arthritis at the Kennedy Institute has a long and proud tradition culminating in the discovery of anti-TNF to treat many inflammatory diseases. Joining forces with colleagues in Birmingham, Newcastle and Glasgow will enable discovery scientists at the Kennedy to collaborate with world-class centres to deliver a transformative approach to  experimental medicine research into inflammatory diseases of the joints.”

Rheumatoid arthritis occurs when the body’s immune system attacks itself. Although drug treatments have considerably improved in the past 20 years, they are not effective in all patients; and even with the best available drugs, many patients’ disease responds only partially, and sometimes not at all.

RACE currently provides a globally-recognised national focus for scientific discovery in the field of rheumatoid arthritis and has made many encouraging developments and translational insights in the fight against the disease. 

The funding, for the second phase of RACE, will focus on translational and experimental medicine and clinical trials for the disease and expand from just rheumatoid arthritis into other forms of inflammatory arthritis. An expanded four-centre PhD training programme will also be developed. 

Director of RACE, Professor Iain McInnes from the University of Glasgow said: “I am delighted to see the continuation of funding from Versus Arthritis for RACE. We believe our innovative collaborative approach has significantly advanced our understanding of rheumatoid arthritis. The work we do across all four universities aims to address the needs of the more than 400,000 people in the UK who suffer from this crippling condition.”

“We believe that the best way to do that is only by working together seamlessly, to discover why and how the body’s immune system attacks the joints, so we will one day achieve our shared goal of finding a cure for rheumatoid arthritis. The Oxford team bring crucial expertise to this mission including state-of-the-art imaging, computational biology, as well as systems modelling approaches. Finally, in this new phase we will for the first time also target other forms of arthritis, especially psoriatic arthritis.”

The overall aim is for RACE to understand why rheumatoid arthritis establishes itself in the first place, and why the biological processes that cause rheumatoid arthritis vary between different patients. RACE also wants to understand why some people respond to treatments only partially, or not at all. This will eventually lead to treatments driven by precision medicine.  

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