April 2018 research newsletter


Welcome to the April 2018 research newsletter.

Once again there is lots to tell you, and in this edition we're excited to announce the launch of our roadmap for pain research, the culmination of 18 months of work to identify priority research areas for musculoskeletal pain.

We also announce our next challenge calls to stack the odds towards finding a cure and more effective treatments for arthritis, as well as pushing frontiers in health research. Both of these calls will open for applications on 31 May.

At the charity we're looking forward to this year's conference season, and first up we’ll be attending OARSI and the British Society for Rheumatology annual conferences, which take place over consecutive weeks in Liverpool. We'll also be at EULAR this summer in Amsterdam. We’d love to see you at any of these conference, keep an eye on our website for details of our stands and events.

We continue to work with our wide range of partners to help build stronger national support for musculoskeletal research and we have been particularly excited about new joint activity with the Medical Research Council, Cancer Research UK, NIHR and other AMRC-member charities over the past year and we plan to build and expand on this into 2018 and beyond.

If you have any feedback regarding the newsletter please feel free to contact us.

To make sure that you never miss out, you can also sign up to receive future newsletters and other important updates from the research team straight to your inbox.

Research roadmap for pain

The pain caused by arthritis and other musculoskeletal conditions results in a substantial loss in quality of life. Eight out of ten people with arthritis experience pain on most days, with depression four times more common in people with persistent pain compared to those without pain. 

Since 2015, we’ve been supporting pain as a priority area for research and have launched a number of focused calls including our pain challenge. However, given the depth and scale of the problem of musculoskeletal pain and the urgent need for new treatments, further strategic research funding is needed. 

Over the course of 2017 and early 2018 we developed a research roadmap for pain which outlines the most pressing and vital areas for future pain research. If research funders turn their focus on understanding the challenges in each of these areas and prioritising funding to tackle these challenges, we will positively transform the lives of people with arthritis and take away the daily impact of pain on all aspects of life. 

Our research roadmap for pain (PDF, 1.6 MB) contains information on: 

  • The challenge of musculoskeletal pain
  • the journey to developing this research roadmap for pain
  • quotes from those involved in the process
  • our 14 areas for future research to address. 

This research roadmap marks the beginning of the journey. Further understanding of each area is now required to begin to prioritise activities. If you have a great idea, or would like more information, please get in touch with us on research@versusarthritis.org.

Come and see us at this year’s British Society of Rheumatology conference!

We’d love to see you at this year's British Society for Rheumatology annual conference. We’re running a variety of sessions on Wednesday 2 May 2018 in Terrace Suite 23 at the ACC in Liverpool, come and join us at any of the events below to hear our plans and tell us what you think.

You can also visit us at stand D32 to find out more about us and how we can support your work.

Our conference programme


Researcher drop-in sessions

An opportunity to speak to charity staff about managing your award, applying to our upcoming calls or ask any other burning questions around our research and strategy.


Involving people with arthritis in research

Join us for a candid panel discussion on the pros and cons of patient involvement.


Researcher drop-in sessions

An opportunity to speak to charity staff about managing your award, applying to our upcoming calls or ask any other burning questions around our research and strategy.


Networking lunch for Arthritis Research UK grant holders

Come and hear the latest news and updates from senior charity staff and find out more about the opportunities available for early-mid career researchers.


Supporting professionals to deliver the best care possible for people with arthritis

An update from the head of professional engagement, Kate Croxton and Dr Neil Snowden, consultant rheumatologist.

We look forward to seeing you!

Putting a spotlight on our researchers: Mr Gulraj Matharu

In the first of a regular series where we highlight the work of our researchers, we spoke to Mr Gulraj Matharu. Gulraj has recently completed an Arthritis Research UK clinical research fellowship, and now holds an NIHR Clinical Lectureship in Trauma and Orthopaedic surgery at the University of Bristol.

Please could you start by telling us a bit about your background and research interests?

I am a specialist trainee in Trauma and Orthopaedic Surgery. I became interested in clinical research during my training, especially during my time as an NIHR Academic Clinical Fellow in Birmingham. My main research interest was in the problems related to metal-on-metal hip replacements. I subsequently took time out of clinical training to complete a PhD at the University of Oxford. I was fortunate enough to be awarded a Royal College of Surgeons of England Research Fellowship  followed by an Arthritis Research UK clinical research fellowship. These prestigious fellowships allowed me to successfully complete my PhD, which was awarded recently.

What inspired you to apply for an Arthritis Research UK fellowship?

Some of my previous supervisors had made me aware of these prestigious doctoral fellowships specifically geared towards clinical academics. After doing my own research into the opportunities available and speaking to current/previous Arthritis Research UK fellows, I was in no doubt that I should apply, though was equally aware the competition would be tough. I was fortunate enough to be shortlisted for interview and subsequently awarded a clinical research fellowship.

What are your research highlights to date?

During my fellowship I have had numerous opportunities to present and publish my work. One of the registry studies I performed was selected for the “Game Changers” session at the prestigious American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons Annual Meeting in San Diego. From over 8,000 abstracts submitted for presentation at the meeting the program committee selected the top six podium abstracts for the “Game Changers” session, which included the work that the committee felt would change their practice in the next two to three years. Shortly after my fellowship ended I wrote a piece that critically appraised the new MHRA follow-up guidance for metal-on-metal hip patients, which was subsequently published in the British Medical Journal.

What has been the most challenging part of your fellowship?

The most challenging part of my fellowship was balancing my time to complete the necessary projects, as well as the write up and submission of my PhD. I certainly improved my time management skills during my fellowship and managed to complete the projects on time, but this was certainly a different type of time management compared with clinical life.

"Undertaking this fellowship and completing my PhD has driven me to continue to pursue a clinical academic career."

What are your plans for the future?

Undertaking this fellowship and completing my PhD has driven me to continue to pursue a clinical academic career. I have recently commenced an NIHR funded Clinical Lectureship in Trauma and Orthopaedic Surgery at the University of Bristol. This 4-year post will allow me to continue my clinical training whilst also providing me with dedicated research time to undertake work in the field of hip and knee replacement.

What doors has our fellowship funding opened?

In addition to helping me obtain my current clinical lectureship post I believe the Arthritis Research UK fellowship has allowed me to develop a collaborative network with colleagues in both the UK and Europe. This will be vital for future collaborative research studies.

Do you have any advice that you would give other early stage clinical researchers?

I would thoroughly recommend early clinical researchers consider applying for formal research fellowships such as those offered by Arthritis Research UK. Not only are they vitally important for undertaking your research and disseminating your work, but also as they are prestigious they offer a stepping-stone to subsequent grants and jobs. If anyone were considering applying for one of these fellowships I would recommend planning early, and also contacting previous fellows who can provide useful advice on the process.

Gulraj is happy to respond to any queries or speak to anyone who is interested in applying for an Arthritis Research UK clinical research fellowship. If you have a question for Gulraj, please let us know and we will put you in touch.

Promoting your research: A pre-publication guide

As a funder of medical research, it is essential that we can disseminate, communicate and promote all the work that we fund. We believe it is an important responsibility to tell the story of arthritis and make it visible on behalf of those affected by arthritis. Consequently, it is vital that all researchers receiving our funding keep us notified of publications well ahead of print and provide us with pre-publication manuscripts and any other appropriate materials. Informing us about your work as soon as possible can help us to gain valuable insight into the research we fund and to shout about our successes.

We've produced a pre-publication guide (PDF, 1.63 MB) which outlines what we may do with your publications once we receive them and also what we may need from you.

The guide contains information on our internal processes around promoting research, including:

  • What to do when your publications are accepted
  • how we will sensitively handle your publications, and respect embargoes
  • the step by step process from accepted publication to news story
  • how we may handle queries from people with arthritis or journalists

For more information, please see our pre-publication guide (PDF, 1.63 MB) or contact the research liaison team at researchliaison@versusarthritis.org.