"Working in research is like reading a great book, you always want to get to next chapter."

23 January 2019
Iain McInnes in the lab

Iain McInnes is the Muirhead Chair of Medicine and the Director of the Institute of Infection, Immunity and Inflammation at the University of Glasgow. He’s also the Director of our Rheumatoid Arthritis Pathogenesis Centre of Excellence.

In the New Year’s Honours list, Iain received a CBE for services to medicine and we caught up with him to find out more about his work and how it feels to get recognition for his research.

Tell us more about your research into arthritis.

The focus of my work is predominately on working out why people develop inflammation in their joints, specifically in rheumatoid and psoriatic arthritis. I also look at treatments and common co-morbidities, for example, the other conditions people may have alongside arthritis, such as heart disease, depression or diabetes. 

We want to understand more about the relationship between such conditions. We want to develop medicines to deal with the primary arthritis itself of course, as well as looking at the best ways to manage these related conditions to improve quality of life overall.

I feel privileged to lead an extraordinary group of people in Glasgow - I work with amazing individuals who deliver great work and insight. Together we’ve built a fine team where we work collaboratively to share expertise across different fields of medicine from immunology, cardiology to neuroscience. This enables us to achieve more by doing holistic research to understand the whole range of factors which can influence people’s well-being.

Our long-term vision is to identify the most appropriate and effective treatment plans which will bring the best outcomes for people as individuals – so called “precision medicine”.

How important is your work at the Versus Arthritis Centre of Excellence?

The work at the centre is a critical component of my research life and it’s great to have the partnership between the university of Glasgow, Newcastle and Birmingham. Bringing together all our collective wisdom, energy and the creative engagement with patients really gets you out of bed in the morning!

I am excited too about new areas of research, for example, working with Professor Paul Garside to understand arthritis in sub-Saharan Africa where there isn’t any rheumatology practiced currently. This will involve close links between the Wellcome centre, the MRC University of Glasgow centre for virus research and scientists and politicians in Malawi.

Our ambition is to learn more about arthritis and other chronic diseases in Africa and share our insights there and back here in the UK. We’re looking at a decade long mission in partnership, which is very exciting - all of this work builds towards the wider recognition and better management of arthritis.

How did you get into working in research and what do you love about it?

There were many small things which brought me to a career in academic research. When I qualified as a doctor, I became fascinated by rheumatic diseases. At the same time the importance of understanding disease pathogenesis and immunology were becoming better recognised.

I went back into the lab, got my PhD, studied in the U.S and came back to Glasgow only intending to stay a short time and here I am still 20 years later! I just love it, there’s such a supportive network, I get to work with very interesting people, and I still enjoy looking after patients.

I am especially excited to train young investigators, to see them grow and become successful independently and take future research forward.

How did you feel to get recognised in the New Year’s Honours list?

I was very surprised when I heard I’d been recognised on the New Year’s Honours List.

I felt immense pride and gratitude for the support of my family and the collective effort of my colleagues for the work we are doing to better understand and treat arthritis.

What are you looking forward to in 2019?

The year ahead is looking very exciting - there’s all the new learnings from our research at the Centre of Excellence.  Getting to work on brand new data and building our knowledge about how we can better help people with arthritis is terrific.

Also, this year I will become the President of EULAR, the leading trans-national society for rheumatology across Europe. Working at a pan- European level will be an interesting opportunity where I hope I can make a real difference.

Finally, I want to enjoy family time with my wife and two daughters especially as this year we will be celebrating our silver wedding anniversary!