Adam Croft, Frances Grudzinska and Hannah Botfield
L-R: Adam Croft, Frances Grudzinska and Hannah Botfield

Three scientists from the Institute of Inflammation and Ageing have received funding from the Kennedy Trust, The Dunhill Medical Trust and the Medical Research Foundation to support and further their research. 

Adam, a clinical rheumatologist and NIHR academic clinical lecturer in rheumatology whose research focuses on understanding the molecular and cellular basis of treatment refractory disease in rheumatoid arthritis, has been awarded a Senior Fellowship from the Kennedy Trust.

Rheumatoid arthritis is a disease in which there is chronic inflammation, pain and swelling in the joints, leading to damage to bone and cartilage. Adam’s team are interested in a certain group of cells within the joint called fibroblasts. These cells form the lining of the joint and are key effector cells mediating chronic inflammation and damage in the joints in patients with rheumatoid arthritis. They are not, however, directly targeted by any of the currently available treatments for this disease.

“The research funded by the Kennedy trust will be transformative for my research, allowing me to establish my own independent research group, funding several positions including post doctorial researchers, a clinical fellow and research assistant.

“This research will now focus on understanding the role of these fibroblast subtypes in the development of treatment refractory disease. We will investigate how the different types of synovial fibroblasts change in response to current treatments and also when those treatments fail, in order to understand why some patients never achieve clinical remission and whether targeting fibroblasts will be beneficial in these patients.

“It will be great to work closely with the Kennedy Trust and draw on the expertise and support of the trustees and I am incredibly grateful for their support and belief in this research,” explains Adam.

“Recent research has shown that patients with treatment refractory disease do not get into current clinical trials and represent an area of significant unmet clinical need. Importantly, nothing is unknown about the underlying molecular and cellular basis of why treatments fail and this understanding is vital, if we are to new therapies to help those patients most in need.

"I hope to have a thriving research team working in collaborative way with our colleagues in the RACE consortium and our partners across the fields of inflammation and rheumatology to answer clinically important questions, that really matter to patients and doing this through high quality experimental medicine which draws on the expertise we have here in Birmingham particularly within the Institute of Inflammation and Ageing."

Frances, a specialist registrar in respiratory medicine, has been awarded The Dunhill Medical Trust Fellowship. Frances previously completed an academic clinical fellowship with Professor David Thickett, Dr Liz Sapey and Dr Aaron Scott between 2016 and 2019 alongside her clinical training.

Frances’s pre-doctoral fellowship along with support from The Stockley Respiratory Endowment Fund will allow her to undertake an observational study of neutrophil function in older adults with pneumonia.

Pneumonia is the leading cause of death from infectious disease worldwide, and it disproportionately affects older adults. Older adults have dysfunctional neutrophils in health and this defect is exacerbated by pneumonia.

“I’m really excited at the prospect of three years of protected research time, to see how my project and skills develop.In three years I will be close to submission of my PhD and planning a return to clinical training, hopefully in a clinical lecturer post to enable me to continue my research,” says Frances.

Hannah, a Research Fellow in the Institute of Inflammation and Ageing has been awarded a Medical Research Foundation Fellowship. To date, Hannah's research has focussed on understanding the pathology behind cerebrospinal fluid dysfunction in disorders such as hydrocephalus and idiopathic intracranial hypertension, and targeting the cerebrospinal fluid dynamics system as a therapeutic strategy.

"The Medical Research Foundation Fellowship will enable me to take my knowledge about cerebrospinal fluid dynamics and apply it to haemorrhagic stroke, with an emphasis around investigating inflammation, matrix biology and ageing," explains Hannah.

"This fellowship will enable me to establish my independence, grow my international reputation in stroke research and generate data for future grant applications; which are all vital for me as an early career researcher. I also want to use this opportunity to develop networks with clinicians so I can advance the clinical aspect of my research."