More than 430,000 people in the UK live with the pain and fatigue of inflammatory arthritis

A national centre researching inflammatory arthritis will receive continued funding of nearly £2 million over five years from Versus Arthritis, it has been announced.

The Research into Inflammatory Arthritis Centre Versus Arthritis (RACE) is a University of Glasgow-led collaboration between the Universities of Birmingham, Glasgow, Newcastle, and Oxford, led by Professor Iain McInnes, Director of the University of Glasgow’s Institute of Infection, Immunity and Inflammation.

Oxford is welcomed as the newest collaborating partner, bringing critical expertise and a long-standing history of research into arthritis, as well as state-of-the-art imaging, computational biology, and innovative systems modelling approaches.

RACE – which was first opened in 2014 by Olympic gold-winning rower Katherine Grainger – was established 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. Long-term complications include osteoporosis, heart disease and early death.

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 people.

RACE also wants to understand why some people respond to treatments only partially, or not at all. Researchers hope that this will eventually lead to treatments driven by precision medicine.

Professor MacInnes 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 430,000 people in the UK who are living with the pain and fatigue of this condition.

“We believe that the best way to do that is 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.

“Finally, in this new phase we will for the first time also target other forms of arthritis, especially psoriatic arthritis.”

Angela Davies, Head of Research Liaison & Evaluation at Versus Arthritis, said: “The RACE centre has already made huge steps forward in our understanding of inflammatory arthritis.

"Over 430,000 people of all ages have rheumatoid arthritis in the UK, and the pain and fatigue they experience can have a huge impact on their physical, emotional and social well-being. This second term of funding will lead to more understanding and importantly better treatments for more people with arthritis.”

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 people; and even with the best available drugs, many people’ disease responds only partially, and sometimes not at all.

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

This funding, for the second phase of RACE, will focus on translational and experimental medicine and clinical trials for the disease. An expanded four-centre PhD training programme will also be developed.