A new arthritis research centre has been officially opened at the University of Birmingham.

The £2.5m Arthritis Research UK Rheumatoid Arthritis Pathogenesis Centre of Excellence (RACE) is a collaboration between the universities of Birmingham, Glasgow and Newcastle which together have pledged an extra £4m in financial support over five years.

The centre, which is operating across the three sites and which was opened in Birmingham by Olympic gold-winning rower Katherine Grainger, aims to find out more about the causes of rheumatoid arthritis.

Researchers will investigate the underlying causes of the condition which affects about 400,000 people in the UK.

It is being led at the University of Birmingham by Professor Chris Buckley, Arthritis Research UK Professor of Rheumatology.

The focus will be on the mechanisms of auto-immunity that cause rheumatoid arthritis to start and why it does not stop, resulting in chronic inflammation in the joints that cannot be suppressed in at least a third of patients, despite modern biological therapy treatment.

Although much of the research will be laboratory-based basic science, the ultimate aim is to develop new therapies to provide patients with specific treatment that will work best for them early in the course of their disease without needing to try an array of different drugs.

Professor Buckley said: "Understanding what causes rheumatoid arthritis, where it starts and why the inflammation associated with the disease does not go away, are really key questions that no one group can address on its own.

"Combining the expertise of basic and clinical scientists across the three universities will not only deliver answers to these questions quicker but help train and encourage future researchers to work in a more collaborative and multidisciplinary way.

"We're really excited about the opportunities this new centre brings and the consequent collaboration between basic scientists, clinicians and industrial partners who all want to make a difference."

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