A £3 million research centre aiming to help ease the pain of millions of arthritis sufferers has been launched in Birmingham.

The site – a joint venture between the universities of Birmingham and Nottingham – was formed to help the elderly enjoy their autumn years instead of suffering with the agonising affliction and other diseases associated with growing old.

It also aims to help slash the £5.7 billion annual cost to the National Health Service of dealing with age-related joint and bone problems.

Centre director Prof Janet Lord said: “Ageing is a complex process that results in the reduced functioning of most of the body’s organ systems, with muscles, bones, tendons and cartilage significantly affected.

“The new centre is focused on reducing this burden, on understanding the processes that affect the body and in developing treatments to ensure old age is enjoyed and not endured.

“We are bringing together exceptional scientists, clinicians and industrial partners – as well as the community – to address one of the 21st century’s most pressing health concerns.”

The initiative is only one of two new national centres funded by Arthritis Research UK and the Medical Research Council (MRC).

Controversial evolutionary biologist and author Prof Richard Dawkins launched the centre yesterday and delivered the first lecture on the biology of ageing.

Prof Alan Silman, medical director of Arthritis Research UK said: “The work of the new centre directed towards these goals will make a practical difference to the lives of millions people as they get older.”

Birmingham and Nottingham last year signed a partnership deal and the institutions are also working together on a £2 million joint investment to strengthen academic links with Brazil.

In September, the two universities launched a £400,000 fund to support more joint projects.

Birmingham vice-chancellor Prof David Eastwood said at the time: “We are two of the leading research universities in the UK and share a global ambition.”