Versus Arthritis Centre for Sport, Exercise and Osteoarthritis
University of Nottingham

New partnership forms to accelerate arthritis therapy

Published by Arthritis Research UK | 16 December 2016

A new partnership, named the M40 alliance, has been launched to accelerate the development of novel treatments for arthritis. The new venture is supported by a £7 million investment from the Kennedy Trust for Rheumatology Research.

The M40 alliance will develop a network of consultants, nurses and clinical researchers in clinical units along the M40 corridor, based on a partnership between the Universities of Oxford and Birmingham, with other hubs in the area also involved. It will harness the existing research strengths of both universities in order to accelerate the development and testing of new therapies for patients.

Underlying causes of inflammatory disease

The Arthritis Therapy Acceleration Programme (A-TAP) will develop and test therapies based on the underlying causes of inflammatory disease, rather than simply treating the clinical symptoms.

Professor Fiona Powrie, Director of the Kennedy Institute of Rheumatology in Oxford, said: “This exciting initiative will allow us to place basic research at the heart of innovative new clinical trials. Lots of new molecular targets have been identified recently for a range of immune mediated inflammatory diseases like arthritis, yet there remains a time lag between identification of drugs, the choice of which disease to use them in, and their adoption into clinical practice. By identifying the underlying causes of disease we will be able to bridge current knowledge gaps and match therapy to underlying disease pathology.”

Overseeing the Arthritis Therapy Acceleration Programme

As part of this new investment, Professor Christopher Buckley (pictured) from the University of Birmingham, will take up a new role as Director of Clinical Research at the Kennedy Institute to oversee the A-TAP. This role will be equally split between Birmingham and Oxford Universities. Professor Buckley is also Director of the Arthritis Research UK Experimental Arthritis Treatment Centre (Birmingham) and Co-director of the Arthritis Research UK Rheumatoid Arthritis Pathogenesis Centre of Excellence, as well as a key academic lead for the charity.

Professor Chris Buckley explains: “The current rate limiting step in experimental medicine is not how to design new and safe drugs but how to improve their efficacy beyond the current best treatments, and how to best match their use to the right disease. Our A-TAP will use strategies that have worked in the cancer field to both repurpose drugs to new indications, as well as using innovative concepts in trial design such as bucket trials where one drug is tried out in a range of different inflammatory diseases at an early stage. This will help us work out which drug is most likely to work for which disease at a much earlier stage than is currently possible.”

Arthritis Research UK’s view

Dr Stephen Simpson, director of research and programmes, at Arthritis Research UK said:
“This is incredibly exciting news that we will have a substantial investment of £7 million into UK research focussed on developing new treatments for the 10 million people living with arthritis. Developing more effective treatments, and ultimately a cure for arthritis, is at the heart of our mission at Arthritis Research UK. We congratulate Professor Chris Buckley and wish him the very best of luck in this endeavour. We look forward to collaborating in the future with Professor Buckley, The Universities of Oxford and Birmingham as well as the Kennedy Trust for Rheumatology Research.”

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Posted on Friday 16th December 2016