Latest news and updates

New director for genetics and genomics centre in Manchester

We’re pleased to announce that Professor Anne Barton has recently been appointed as the next director for our centre for genetics and genomics. This appointment follows the retirement of Professor Jane Worthington as centre director in January 2019, who has served as the director since the centre’s inception in 2013. Jane is also chair of our fellowship expert group and a member of the disease subcommittee, and will be continuing with these two roles until the spring, concluding with the annual fellows meeting in March.

Jane’s research has contributed significantly to our understanding of how genetics affects a person’s risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis, how the condition can be caused by several different mechanisms, and therefore identified groups that would benefit from altered treatments. She has also worked tirelessly to develop future leaders in musculoskeletal research, both within her role at the University of Manchester, as well as with her many roles on our research committees.

We would like to thank Jane for her time as centre director, and ongoing commitment and support to the charity.

Professor Anne Barton recently took up the role of director of the centre for genetics and genomics. Anne is Professor of Rheumatology and research lead for the Musculoskeletal Theme of the Manchester NIHR Biomedical Research Centre. Her research interest is in precision medicine of rheumatoid and psoriatic arthritis, particularly in predicting response to treatment in patients receiving biological therapies.

Anne commented, “I am delighted to have been appointed as Director of the Centre for genetics and genomics and am excited to continue the programme of work that Jane started. We have a great team here, whose aim is to understand the causes of inflammatory arthritis and use that information to improve the lives of patients living with these conditions”.

Starter grants for clinical lecturers - call for applications

Applications are open for the Academy of Medical Sciences starter grants for clinical lecturers scheme with a deadline of 17:00 on 11 March 2019. We're pleased to support these awards as a partner funder.

The grants provide modest ‘starter’ funds of up to £30,000 to enable research active clinical lecturers to pursue their research work. Clinical lecturer posts provide a salary but often do not come with the funding to support the costs of the research. This scheme was designed to help bridge this gap by providing clinical lecturers with access to modest research funds for up to two years, giving them experience of preparing a research grant application and helping them establish their research portfolios by providing funding for research consumables.

These grants are administered by the Academy of Medical Sciences, more information and details on how to apply can be found on their website.

If you have any questions about the application, please contact the Academy's grants team on clinicallecturers@acmedsci.ac.uk.

Joint Cancer Research UK Immunology Project Awards – call for applications

Following on from our previous partnership with Cancer Research UK (CRUK), we are pleased to announce that we are now partnering once again through joint funded project awards. We hope to maximise progress in our shared priorities spanning both cancer and musculoskeletal conditions.

The joint funded CRUK-Versus Arthritis Immunology Project Awards will foster collaborations between researchers from both fields, encourage researchers to share expertise, and address questions relevant to both cancer and musculoskeletal conditions. Applicants must explain how their research proposal will bring patient benefit for both diseases.

Examples of proposals relevant to both cancer and arthritis that we welcome as part of this funding call are:

  • Immune metabolism.
  • Mechanisms behind adverse autoimmune events in cancer immunotherapy, such as the exacerbation of inflammatory arthritis.
  • Mechanism of action studies that explore opportunities to re-position existing drug strategies that support the treatment of cancer or arthritis.
  • Investigations that support the diagnosis, stratification or treatment decisions specific to the management of cancer or arthritis.

The deadline for applications is Thursday 9 May 2019. Applications will be administered and assessed alongside CRUK’s Cancer Immunology Project Awards. Successful applications will be jointly funded by both charities

Applications for 2019 nurse and AHP internship scheme now open

Applications are now open for the nurse and allied health professional internship scheme with a deadline of 17:00 on Monday 4 March 2019.

This internship scheme provides fantastic opportunities for nurse and allied health professional (UK HCPC registerable) final year students/recent graduates who have an interest in clinical research into the personal impact of rheumatic and musculoskeletal diseases.

Successful interns will have the opportunity to develop their research skills first-hand in a leading centre of rheumatic and musculoskeletal disease research whilst receiving supervision, evaluation and mentorship in research.

The internships are for 8 weeks full-time from July 1 2019 to 23 August 2019. Placements will take place at seven research institutions renowned for rheumatic and musculoskeletal disease research:

  • Glasgow Caledonian
  • Keele
  • Leeds
  • Southampton
  • Salford
  • Oxford
  • West of England, Bristol.

The placements are unpaid but each intern will receive £1000 towards costs.

Further information

For further information about the internship scheme and how to apply for 2019 please visit the call for applications page or contact Mary Fry, Project Manager on m.l.fry@soton.ac.uk or 02380 594023.

You can also find out more about the experiences of the 2018 interns by reading their blogs.

Experimental medicine conference report now available

In 2018, Versus Arthritis, in partnership with the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), delivered a Musculoskeletal Experimental Medicine conference at the University of Nottingham. We are pleased to announce that the conference report (PDF, 494 KB) is now available to download.

The purpose of the conference was to bring together key members of the UK's musculoskeletal experimental medicine landscape to explore opportunities to maximise, improve and add to the UK's investment in the field. The report includes highlights of the many constructive discussions that took place during the event.

The day brought to light a number of approaches for funders, industry and academia to consider progressing. It also revealed remaining areas of need, scope for system-wide adaption and adoption and forward opportunities to act. There was collective recognition that there is opportunity to define and align activities against some common areas of need, and derive benefit from a collaborative approach.

Next steps

In the context of the evolving landscape there is a clear opportunity to align UK experimental medicine infrastructure and investments in musculoskeletal research at a national level, with the ultimate goal of accelerating translation across the preclinical / clinical boundary for the benefit of patients.

NIHR and Versus Arthritis intend to form a small working group to consider approaches to take in developing and aligning UK musculoskeletal experimental medicine activities and opportunities, moving towards defining and outlining a UK musculoskeletal Translational Research Collaboration.

Applications for our career development and foundation fellowship schemes

Applications are open for our career development and foundation fellowship schemes with a joint deadline of 10 April 2019.

Foundation fellowships are our first postdoctoral awards which aim to retain the best postdoctoral researchers and provide an opportunity for fellows to develop independent research ideas at an early stage in their career. At the time of application, candidates should be in the final year of PhD training, or within one year of completing their PhD. These fellowships offer three years of funding.

Career development fellowships are our intermediate postdoctoral awards which aim to attract and retain talented postdoctoral researchers, and provide them with the opportunity to develop an independent research career and progress towards higher-level appointments. These fellowships offer five years of funding.

Both fellowships are open to basic scientists, vets, nurses and allied health professionals and projects must be in areas of research relevant to arthritis and musculoskeletal diseases.

Applications for either fellowship should be jointly submitted by the candidate with an established sponsor, and be based within a multidisciplinary research group in a UK university department, hospital or research institute. All applications should be submitted through our grants management system, Grant Tracker.

For foundation fellowships the proposed sponsor must not be the applicant’s PhD supervisor and we will additionally give preference to foundation fellowship candidates wishing to move laboratories.

For more guidance, read the call pages for these fellowships within the types of grant section. If you have further queries please contact Julie Marsden on research@versusarthritis.org.

Joining forces with the Nuffield Foundation and Oliver Bird Fund

The Nuffield Foundation has announced a new funding opportunity for research into musculoskeletal conditions through the Oliver Bird Fund. First established in 1948, the Oliver Bird Fund was bequeathed by Captain Oliver Bird to specifically invest in rheumatic disease research.

The Nuffield Foundation will dedicate £12.5 million over the next 10 years into musculoskeletal research. Over the next 5 years, the Oliver Bird Fund will support up to £6.25m projects designed to better understand the nature, scale and impact of musculoskeletal conditions, across three programmes of research, developed in close collaboration with Versus Arthritis.

By funding interrelated policy, practice and research activities, the Nuffield Foundation aims to improve the lives of people living with musculoskeletal conditions. It is calling for proposals with an interdisciplinary focus that can improve understanding of the patient experience and of health and social well-being outcomes. Funding will be awarded across three programmes, one of which is anticipated to be co funded with Versus Arthritis.

To find out more about the Oliver Bird Fund and upcoming application process visit our website or http://www.nuffieldfoundation.org/OBF.

Latest funding calls announcement

We are delighted to announce the launch our latest round of funding opportunities.

Our third pain challenge is now open for applications. Chronic pain is life changing for people with arthritis and other musculoskeletal diseases. Without action this will not improve. UK pain research is world-leading, but severely underfunded. The priority areas that desperately need research outlined in our Research Roadmap for Pain have created the scope of the call for our latest pain challenge.

We want ambitious and innovative investigator-driven research awards in discovery, clinical or applied health pain research, which should be collaborative, multidisciplinary and address pain holistically. Awards of up to £1 million for up to 60 months are available.

We are committed to supporting the future leaders of musculoskeletal research, and this time our challenge includes dedicated funding to support researchers at the start of their careers.

Our Priorities in clinical research funding round is also now open for clinical study applications. Through this call, we want to fund research that can develop and evaluate therapies for the prevention, treatment or diagnosis of arthritis, or for relieving symptoms of the condition.

We are inviting applications for clinical research funding that seek to address a question in one of our priority areas, which have been developed through discussions with key stakeholders.

Awards of up to £750,000 and up to 60 months duration are available.

For details about how to apply for these calls and all other funding opportunities please visit our types of grant page.

Milestone for clinical lecturer grants

The Academy of Medical Sciences is celebrating 10 years since the launch of its starter grants for clinical lecturers scheme. We have been involved in the scheme as a partner funder since 2012. Other partners include the Wellcome Trust, the British Heart Foundation, the Medical Research Council and Diabetes UK.

The starter grants for clinical lecturers scheme supports research active clinicians, dentists and vets to pursue their research work, generating evidence for new treatments, alongside the delivery of front-line clinical care. To celebrate the 10 year milestone, the Academy of Medical Sciences have published a report ‘Starter for 10: a decade of supporting academic Clinical Lecturers’ that highlights successes of the scheme, and includes case studies drawn from the last decade.

Dr Stephen Simpson, our director of research, commented: "Versus Arthritis is delighted to have been a partner funder of the Academy’s starter grant scheme since 2012. The scheme is a fantastic way to support early career academic clinicians, allowing them to strengthen and build their research portfolio whilst completing their clinical training. The projects previously funded through this scheme have helped to stimulate clinical research in the field, supporting the future leaders in musculoskeletal research to continue the fight against arthritis."

To date, £12.4 million has been invested in supporting 438 clinical lecturers from across the UK to undertake diverse research projects. In the last year, there have been several projects funded in the remit of the charity including:

  • Single cell transcriptomic analysis of the T cell compartment in psoriatic arthritis (Hussein Al-Mossawi, University of Oxford)
  • The role of FAMIN in controlling macrophage lipid biology and restricting inflammation (Mohammed Zaeem Cader, University of Cambridge)
  • Does epigenetic age acceleration predict future musculoskeletal outcomes? (Michael Clynes, University of Southampton)

For further information about the starter grants for clinical lecturers scheme, please visit the Academy of Medical Sciences website.

Our grant administration system has been upgraded

We recently let you know that we have been working on the development of a major upgrade of our grant administration system. The new system will allow us to maintain and improve the efficiency of application and award management by the charity as well as vastly improving the user interface of Grant Tracker. 

This has been the culmination of a great deal of work throughout 2018 and to accommodate the final migration, the system has not been available for a two-week period.

We are now pleased to announce that Grant Tracker is back online.

The system has already undergone considerable testing by the team. However, we would like to ask for your help to ensure that any remaining issues are rectified quickly. Therefore, if you spot any issues with the new system, please could you email the research team (research@versusarthritis.org) to let us know.