The Rheumatology Reseach Group (RRG) is based in the Institute of Inflammation and Ageing (IIA) in the College of Medical and Dental Sciences. The Institute has major research themes in Inflammation, Ageing, Trauma, Regeneration and Repair. These research themes are linked to the clinical disciplines of Clinical Immunology, Neurology, Nephrology, Rheumatology, Ophthalmology, Gastroenterology and Respiratory Medicine. Academic Rheumatology in Birmingham is therefore ideally placed to act as a focus for translational clinical research in inflammation, where a clear understanding of how immune cells behave in inflamed microenvironments is likely to be of critical importance for future experimental medicine studies.
The RRG has focused on collaborative research along lines of common interest. Such collaborations include those with basic scientists, those running clinical studies and researchers using qualitative methods in a community setting. This has provided a clear focus on important biological questions that cross traditional disciplines and often require long-term commitment and investment. The key objective of our research is to improve clinical outcomes for those with, and at risk of developing, rheumatoid arthritis, Sjogren’s syndrome and SLE. Our research is underpinned by well characterised cohorts of patients. Our multidisciplinary team of academic and clinical rheumatologists, general practitioners, biological and social scientists, allied health professionals and patient representatives works in an integrated way to develop and deliver our research objectives. Our major focus is on inflammatory arthritis and in particular the pathobiology and comorbidity associated with rheumatoid arthritis and Sjogrens syndrome as well as the epidemiology, clinical management and outcome of SLE. A particular strength of research in Birmingham is exploring the role of the tissue microenvironment in shaping immune and inflammatory responses.
We run a substantial research group comprising over 50 research scientists, clinicians and allied health profesionals. Our basic science research focuses on why inflammation persists. Our model has become an internationally accepted paradigm; a concept we have termed “process-driven pathway-focussed pathology”. Our studies have proved critically important in driving the clinical models that we investigate. While this has historically been focussed on established rheumatoid arthritis, vasculitis and SLE, we have developed research programmes in very early rheumatoid arthritis, the pathology of Sjogren’s syndrome and the relationship between periodontal disease and inflammatory arthritis. This work also provides an axis for collaborative interaction between basic scientists in the adjacent Institute of Biomedical Research in Birmingham as well as clinical collagues including those in primary care.
We are one of nine Centres in the NIHR TRP in Joint and Inflammatory Disease and one of six ARUK Experimental Arthritis Treatment Centres. We are also members of the MRC-ABPI initiative (RA-MAP), the MRC Stratified Medicine consortium (MATURA) as well as the recently funded ARUK microbiome project in collaboration with colleagues in Oxford and UCL London. We are one of two UK centres selected to take part in the NIH funded Accelerating Medicines Partnership (AMP) based on our ability to perform and evaluate synovial and salivary gland biopsy All of this places us in an ideal position to translate our laboratory findings into clinically relevant treatments. We are also one of three Universities that form the ARUK Centre of Excellence in the Pathogenesis of RA. We coordinate an EU funded FP7 programme (Towards Early Arthritis Management) that aims to identify biomarkers and disease mechanisms operating during the phases of disease leading up to development of RA and to translate these findings into improved and user acceptable diagnostic kits and strategies for benefit of the EU economy (http://www.team-arthritis.eu/).