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Medical school with blue skies and autumnal leaves

This year has seen two academics from the Institute of Inflammation and Ageing at the University of Birmingham awarded the newly established Emerging Investigator Excellence Awards by the American College of Rheumatology (ACR). 

The Emerging Investigator Excellence Awards were established to recognise exceptional abstracts presented by Early Career investigators, and only one award is given per abstract category.

The Institute of Inflammation and Ageing is pleased to congratulate Dr Chris Mahony, a Postdoctoral Researcher with an interest in improving the treatment of inflammatory arthritis by studying the genetic regulation of different types of fibroblasts. Dr Mahony was given the award for the Paediatric Rheumatology – Basic Science category for his work on the "Cellular Deconstruction of Stromal and Myeloid Cell Compartments in the Inflamed Synovium of Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis."

To have my abstract accepted and to be awarded the Emerging Investigator Excellence Award by the ACR was a fantastic opportunity for me to showcase the work we are doing in childhood-onset inflammatory arthritis. I've received amazing feedback on my work to help move this project forward for publication and built collaborations whilst at the ACR 2023 conference.

Dr Chris Mahony, Postdoctoral Researcher in the Croft lab at the University of Birmingham

Having created the first atlas of the inflamed synovium in children with Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis, Dr Mahony and the team believe that understanding the cellular mechanisms in the synovium will lead to better treatments for children with JIA in the future. 

This research was funded by Versus Arthritis, Kennedy Trust for Rheumatology Research as part of the Arthritis-Therapy Acceleration Programme, and the Medical Research Council (MRC)

The Institute is also pleased to congratulate Dr Sam Kemble, a Research Fellow with an interest in understanding how the body's tissue resident cells control the development and longevity of specific, unhealthy environments in inflammatory disease. Dr Kemble was given the award for the T Cell Biology & Targets in Autoimmune & Inflammatory Disease category for his work on "Targeting Fibroblasts in Inflammatory Disease using Engineered T Cells". 

Dr Kemble and his team have identified a pathogenic fibroblasts that exist across multiple inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and primary Sjögren’s syndrome (PSS) and are currently trialling the use of chimeric antigen receptor T cells as a novel immunotherapy to target these cells within the disease tissue.

To win the award really emphasises what we’re trying to achieve in developing new and novel therapeutics to target effector fibroblasts in inflammatory disease. The opportunity to showcase my work at the American College of Rheumatology (ACR) was an invaluable experience and I received very positive feedback and collaborative interest from fellow rheumatologist across the world.

Dr Samuel Kemble, Research Fellow in the Croft lab at the University of Birmingham

Dr Kemble and his team have demonstrated that CAR T cell immunotherapy is a successful and novel approach to targeting pathogenic fibroblasts in inflammatory disease. Dr Kemble is hoping that his research will contribute significantly to the development of new fibroblast-targeted therapies in inflammatory disease.

The American College of Rheumatology (ACR) Convergence took place in the San Diego Convention Centre in San Diego, California, and ran from 10th - 15th November 2023. For physicians, scientists and health professionals involved in the treatment or research of arthritis or rheumatic and musculoskeletal diseases, the annual meeting stands as a prime educational gathering to learn the latest rheumatology research and breakthroughs in the field.