Diseases of the immune system which lead to persistent inflammation such as colitis, Crohn’s disease and arthritis, are a group of common and highly disabling conditions which share underlying disease processes. They affect up to 10% of the UK population and this figure is likely to increase with our ageing population. Unfortunately, treatment is expensive, rarely curative and often associated with disabling side-effects such as infection.
The NIHR Birmingham Biomedical Research Centre has exploited the outstanding clinical environment of the University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust and the longstanding research at the University of Birmingham to shed light on the common and distinct mechanisms underpinning these diseases.
Professor David Adams, Director of NIHR Birmingham Biomedical Research Centre, Director of Birmingham Health Partners and Head of the College of Medical and Dental Sciences at the University of Birmingham says:
“We are delighted that the NIHR have funded a Biomedical Research Centre in inflammatory disease in Birmingham. We are working towards building a centre of excellence that will allow us to take scientific discoveries through into new treatments for patients with inflammatory and autoimmune joint, muscle, bowel and liver diseases. Chronic inflammatory diseases such as arthritis, colitis and liver diseases are increasingly common and a major cause of suffering and early death. In Birmingham, we have been researching the underlying processes behind these diseases for many years. This award has enabled the University and University Hospitals Birmingham to continue to develop the facilities and teams to help better understand and treat these disabling diseases.”
NIHR Birmingham Biomedical Research Centre is building on the outstanding clinical research infrastructure in Birmingham to carry out studies in well-defined groups of patients with inflammatory disease in which we are:
Testing new treatments that switch off or re-calibrate the overactive immune system that underpins these diseases. Treatments include drugs that target specific immune pathways; cell therapies that can promote suppression of inflammation and encourage healing; the use of beneficial species of bacteria in the gut that can displace the harmful ones that drive inflammation in the gut but also have detrimental (inflammatory) effects on other parts of the body.
Developing new biomarkers that will allow us to select the best new treatment for each patient. This approach, called stratified medicine, has transformed treatment for cancer patients and we think it is now ready for application to inflammatory disease.
Exploring the disease processes that drive these conditions, focusing on mechanisms that are shared between different conditions, which is allowing us to design rational treatments that will benefit many more patients.
The vision of the NIHR Birmingham Biomedical Research Centre is to establish a multidisciplinary team of clinicians, nurses, scientists and clinical trials experts that can deliver a Trials Acceleration Programme (TAP) to reduce the time taken to translate scientific discoveries into clinical benefits for patients. Our BRC has an important educational remit, helping to train the next generation of biomedical researchers and to inform and educate the public about advances in medical care for inflammatory diseases.