The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) has today announced the start of the UK’s first commercial trial of a new treatment for Sjogren’s syndrome.

Up to half a million people in the UK are affected by the autoimmune condition. The study will test a new antibody treatment, which has the potential to bring relief to sufferers with Sjogren’s syndrome, a condition where the body’s immune system attacks glands that secrete fluid, such as tears and saliva.

Sjogren’s syndrome is the second most common autoimmune condition after rheumatoid arthritis. Yet it remains under recognised and under treated, with only symptomatic relief such as artificial tears available. Women account for about 90 percent of cases.

The study is being led by Dr Ben Fisher at the University of Birmingham and University Hospitals Birmingham.

Dr Fisher said, “Sjogren’s Syndrome can cause substantial distress for patients and we currently have no treatment that can significantly tackle this condition. By working in collaboration with some of the UK’s leading research centres and companies like Novartis we aiming to bring new and better treatments into the clinic and provide real benefit for patients.”

The study, funded by Novartis, utilises the NIHR Translational Research Partnership to bring together the country’s expert investigators in joint and related inflammatory diseases.

The NIHR Translational Research Partnership is managed by the NIHR’s Office for Clinical Research Infrastructure (NOCRI) and was specifically developed by the Government to work with life sciences companies on the early development of innovative new treatments.

George Freeman, Parliamentary Undersecretary of State for Life Sciences commented: “This is a great example of the UK pioneering the development of a new treatment for a real unmet need. We have created the environment in this country that encourages and supports partnership between industry, academia and the NHS, which is vital to create a test bed to bring better medicines to patients faster.”

Mark Samuels, Managing Director of NOCRI said: “The Government established NIHR Translational Research Partnerships to work in collaboration with companies on the development of innovative new treatments. They are already making great progress, particularly in areas where we lack effective treatments. I am delighted that Novartis are working with NOCRI and the NIHR to be able to make use of the NIHR's world-class research expertise to support their clinical development.”

The study involves four other NIHR expert centres at Newcastle University, King's College London, Queen Mary University London and University College London.. All centres are now looking for potential patients to take part in the study.

About the NIHR
The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) is funded by the Department of Health to improve the health and wealth of the nation through research. Since its establishment in April 2006, the NIHR has transformed research in the NHS. It has increased the volume of applied health research for the benefit of patients and the public, driven faster translation of basic science discoveries into tangible benefits for patients and the economy, and developed and supported the people who conduct and contribute to applied health research. The NIHR plays a key role in the Government’s strategy for economic growth, attracting investment by the life-sciences industries through its world-class infrastructure for health research. Together, the NIHR people, programmes, centres of excellence and systems represent the most integrated health research system in the world.

For further information, visit the NIHR website 

About NIHR Translational Research Partnerships
NIHR Translational Research Partnerships bring together world-class investigators in the UK’s leading academic and NHS centres to support collaboration with the life sciences industry in early and exploratory development of new drugs and other interventions. Research centres that make up the Partnerships have been selected to work together based on their proven ability to deliver in experimental medicine and translational research. As members of a Partnership, each centre has committed to work with industry through a consistent point of contact provided by the NIHR Office for Clinical Research Infrastructure (NOCRI).

There are currently two NIHR Translational Research Partnerships focusing on one of the following areas:
Joint and related inflammatory diseases – including rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, synovitis, Sjogren’s syndrome.
Inflammatory respiratory disease – including asthma, allergy, COPD, cystic fibrosis, acute lung injury, respiratory infection.

For further information, visit the NOCRI microsite 

The NIHR Office for Clinical Research Infrastructure (NOCRI) helps public, charity and industry research funders work in partnership with NIHR infrastructure and to maximise the impact of the Department of Health’s £0.5b/year investment in clinical research infrastructure. Equally, it ensures that NIHR-supported Centres, Units, Facilities and Networks can work together to help drive the flow of innovative research for patient benefit.

NOCRI supports research partners by:

  • Research signposting - help with navigating the clinical research environment and finding expert researchers and world class facilities and technologies.
  • Research collaboration management - support for the development of collaborative research partnerships.