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Ten new research projects will tackle the root cause of life-changing autoimmune conditions

Ten new autoimmunity research projects will receive nearly £1 million from the partnership of the Lorna and Yuti Chernajovsky Biomedical Research Foundation and Connect Immune Research, a coalition of immune-related medical research charities.
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Kate Lawton 12 May 2022
T cell immune system

In autoimmune conditions, our immune systems attack healthy cells in the body

Targeting the links between multiple autoimmune conditions

Ten new autoimmunity research projects will receive nearly £1 million from the partnership of the Lorna and Yuti Chernajovsky Biomedical Research Foundation and Connect Immune Research, a coalition of immune-related medical research charities.

The ten new 12-month pilot projects will explore how to target the links between multiple autoimmune conditions to increase our understanding and generate new treatments.

The ultimate aim of this initiative is to deliver significant new investment to confront the UK’s high prevalence of autoimmunity and develop new treatments for multiple autoimmune conditions, faster.

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 that they are somehow linked, and that better understanding this link will pave the way to improved treatments for all autoimmune conditions.

Increasing understanding of autoimmunity

As Maxine Pancaldi, an autoimmune patient representative notes, “It is incredibly encouraging to see this collaboration gather speed. Having the combined involvement and input of all parties enriches the goals and outcomes and brings additional direction for researchers. It truly gives hope to those of us living with autoimmune conditions that a concentration of minds, resources and findings will unlock the mysteries of the immune system.”

The studies funded by this initiative will take a number of approaches to increase our understanding of autoimmunity and how to treat it including:

  • Examining the genetics of autoimmunity
  • Looking for potential new immunotherapy treatments for autoimmunity
  • Analysing how gut health might affect autoimmunity
  • Building knowledge of how different types of immune cell are involved in the development of autoimmune conditions

Partner views

This first round of pilot grants aims to quickly develop proof-of-principle for potential new treatments for multiple autoimmune conditions by examining similarities between the different diseases.

On completion, the most promising projects will be invited to apply for follow-on funding to take their work forward.

Professor Yuti Chernajovsky, Co-founder and Trustee of the Lorna and Yuti Chernajovsky Biomedical Research Foundation, said:

“The Chernajovsky Foundation is delighted to be funding these innovative translational research projects with our Connect Immune Research partners, which we hope will improve the lives of people living with autoimmune conditions. We look forward to seeing the projects develop as part of a new collaborative approach to research on autoimmunity.”

Rachel Connor, Director of Research Partnerships at the type 1 diabetes charity JDRF, said:

“These awards are evidence that the UK research community is just as determined as the Connect Immune Research partnership to think about autoimmunity in a new way. This funding partnership with the Chernajovsky Foundation has provided the opportunity for 10 teams to come together to tackle these complex life-changing diseases in new ways, and we are so excited to see where these pilot projects can lead.”

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

“We are determined to make arthritis preventable, treatable and curable. We know that our partners in this pioneering initiative are equally keen to understand and exploit the shared underlying immunological mechanisms for several other chronic, autoimmune conditions that severely limit people’s lives. Combining the heft, the resources and the expertise in a collaborative manner such as this is a sure way of ensuring research makes a bigger difference to people’s lives, at pace and we are delighted to be part of this forward-thinking endeavour.”

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

“We’re thrilled by the wide range of research projects receiving funding. They will help us gain a better understanding of autoimmune diseases with the ultimate aim of finding new treatments. MS is relentless, painful and disabling. Around a third of people living with an autoimmune condition have more than one, and they say they want us to do all we can to further research. The collaboration between the Connect Immune Research group and the Lorna and Yuti Chernajovsky Biomedical Research Foundation brings together researchers from across autoimmune conditions to uncover the common threads in their work. We hope this will lead to new treatments, faster.”

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 fund these innovative projects that prioritise 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.”

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