JDRFNewsNew £1.3m grant call provides significant boost to autoimmune research

New £1.3m grant call provides significant boost to autoimmune research

Posted on 11 August 2021

Connect Immune Research logo

Pioneering partnership between medical research charities and charitable trust brings significant new investment to confront the UK’s high prevalence of autoimmune conditions.  

The Lorna and Yuti Chernajovsky Biomedical Research Foundation working with Connect Immune Research, a coalition of medical research charities, have launched an innovative new grant call to provide £1.3 million of new funding for research into the underlying causes of autoimmunity. 

In all autoimmune conditions, our immune systems attack healthy cells in the body, causing symptoms that have the potential to severely limit people’s lives. They affect an estimated four million people in the UK – equivalent to more than six per cent of the population – but are currently incurable. Examples include type 1 diabetes, coeliac disease, multiple sclerosis (MS), psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis and alopecia. Although these conditions affect different parts of the body, we know from observing commonalities that they are somehow linked, and that better understanding this link will pave the way to improved treatments for all autoimmune conditions.

Ian Newsome, an autoimmune patient representative notes, “As an individual faced with more than one autoimmune health condition, I see considerable potential in taking a more holistic approach to understanding the causes and identifying treatments. I feel like a prisoner to the complex, multi-faceted health conditions that I face on a daily basis without any hope of improvement. Bringing together diverse expertise to develop creative solutions seems to be the only hope I have to unlock the cell door!”

The grant scheme aims to bring together researchers from across these autoimmune conditions to pool their knowledge and uncover common threads in their work, with the ultimate aim of developing new treatments for multiple autoimmune conditions, faster.

This first round of funding will provide up to £100,000 for 12 months to fund ‘pilot’ grants aimed at quickly developing proof of principle for potential new treatments for multiple autoimmune conditions by targeting pathways common to the different diseases. On completion, the most promising projects will be invited to apply for follow-on funding to take their work forward. 

Dr Lorna Chernajovsky, co-founder and trustee of the Lorna and Yuti Chernajovsky Biomedical Research Foundation, said:

“At the Chernajovsky Foundation, our aim is to fund innovative, high-quality translational research to bring about the development of new targeted biomedical therapies to improve health. Autoimmunity encompasses a variety of conditions that potentially are driven by similar biological mechanisms. By encouraging collaboration between researchers from across the spectrum of autoimmune disease, there are substantial knowledge gains to be made with the potential of significantly improving treatments for a range of conditions. 

“The Chernajovsky Foundation is delighted to partner with Connect Immune Research on this exciting new grant call. We want to encourage applications targeting biological pathways that are relevant to multiple immune-mediated inflammatory conditions and which prioritise collaboration. By championing proposals that have the potential to advance towards clinical studies, we aim to provide new impetus to research and innovation into autoimmunity, ultimately improving the lives of people living with these conditions.”

Karen Addington, UK Chief Executive of the type 1 diabetes charity JDRF, said: 

“The UK is a world leader in immunology research. But for too long research teams have been funded to focus on specific conditions rather than the connections between them. 

“JDRF and partners built Connect Immune Research to empower scientists – to bring us closer to immune research breakthroughs that will transform lives. We are delighted that Connect Immune Research is partnering with the Lorna and Yuti Chernajovsky Biomedical Research Foundation to provide this new funding opportunity.”

Dr Neha Issar-Brown, Director of Research at Versus Arthritis, said: 

“Rheumatoid arthritis is a debilitating autoimmune condition that does not discriminate by age and impacts the lives of around 400,000 adults over the age of sixteen in the UK. There are many other forms of arthritis that are autoimmune conditions.

“By working together we will achieve a lot more, improving our collective understanding of autoimmune conditions, speeding up the improvement of treatments, and helping not only people with arthritis, but those living with other conditions such as MS and type 1 diabetes.” 

Nick Moberly, Chief Executive at the MS Society, said: 

“Being a part of Connect Immune Research allows us to work alongside other vital charities who support people with autoimmune conditions. MS is relentless, painful and disabling, and we know people who are impacted by the condition want us to take every opportunity to further research. 

“Our goal is for autoimmunity to be recognised as a distinct area of research science, alongside the likes of cancer and dementia. Thanks to exciting new partnerships – like with the Lorna and Yuti Chernajovsky Biomedical Research Foundation – we hope to speed up and strengthen research so we can find a way of preventing these conditions.” 

Dr Doug Brown, Chief Executive of the British Society for Immunology, said:

“Immunology is a vital branch of medical science in which the UK leads the world with new discoveries. Connect Immune Research has joined forces with the Lorna and Yuti Chernajovsky Biomedical Research Foundation to develop this innovative new funding scheme that prioritises a collaborative, integrated approach to autoimmune research. By building on the UK’s existing strength in autoimmune research, we aim to bring together the best brains in immunology to study different autoimmune diseases together, driving forward our understanding of the underlying biological mechanisms and developing new treatments, which will ultimately transform the lives of people living with these conditions.  

Find out more and how to apply here.