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New Year Message from Dr Stephen Simpson, Director of Research & Programmes

Published on 18 January 2017

We are delighted and enthusiastic to share with you our progress and plans around delivering against our strategic focus to 2020, which we defined in 2015 as being to improve the quality of life for people with arthritis so they can say “I am in control, independent and recognised.”

Review of 2016 activity

We have now started to cover significant ground in all of our charitable activities that will move us closer towards making a true difference to the lives of people with arthritis and other musculoskeletal conditions. Our approach to research funding continues to support exceptional research that aims to prevent the onset of arthritis, develop a cure for arthritis and transform the lives of those with arthritis.

Funding Focus

In response to our strategic focus to 2020, we began 2016 by hosting a Health Service Research workshop in London, to launch a dedicated funding call for projects in health service delivery research. We also focussed project grant calls in pain and fatigue, and in the Spring we co-hosted a workshop focussed on priorities in pain at the Wellcome Trust, to launch a dedicated biomedical science call in Pain. We continued to fund clinical research projects prioritised by our clinical studies groups and we developed our proof of concept awards in collaboration with the Medical Technologies Innovation and Knowledge Centre.

Partnership activities

We developed new partnerships activities in relevant areas, including joint funding of fellowships with the mental health charity MQ. Dr Sam Norton from King’s College London won the 2016 Arthritis Research UK MQ Fellows award, to develop a new app aiming to explore mental and physical health support for people with arthritis. We also co-sponsored the Osteo-chip challenge with the National Centre for the Replacement, Refinement and Reduction of Animals in Research. In 2017 we will see new partnerships to support fellows and we are working on joint activity in the areas of managing autoimmunity with Cancer Research UK, and in stratification of disease management and treatment with the Medical Research Council.

Subcommittee updates

In January 2016, we shared with you our intention to reformulate our committees, and we have now established a new charitable purposes committee with three subcommittees in the areas of disease, treatment and health. The committees held their inaugural meetings in October and we have established our allied college of experts. We also have an in-built patient insight network, which involves people with arthritis in our research prioritisation, and funding award activities. The insight that people with musculoskeletal conditions bring to our charitable activities is invaluable and patient involvement and engagement in research is gaining increased traction; we were therefore delighted that the chair of our patient insight network opened the AMRC Patients First conference in November. In the new year we will also be adapting our clinical studies group activities to fit with the new ways of working with the strategic funding subcommittees to help identify priorities across the spectrum of our research.

Plans for 2017 and upcoming deadlines

We have recently announced three calls for funding applications which will be assessed in the 2017 meetings of our new disease, treatment and health subcommittees:
  • Stacking the odds towards a cure, which opened via a webinar in November 2016. The deadline for outline applications is the 22nd February 2017, with the full application deadline of 28th June 2017. The applications will be reviewed by the disease subcommittee and decisions notified in December 2017.
  • Clinical Research Priorities (opening mid-January) will invite full applications for the 24th May 2017. The applications will be reviewed by the treatment subcommittee and decisions notified in December 2017.
  • Transforming musculoskeletal Health - applied health research, (which opened on the 21st of December 2016). The deadline for outline applications is the 1st March 2017, with the full application deadline of 5th July 2017. The applications will be reviewed by the health subcommittee and decisions notified in December 2017.

The second pain challenge will launch this Summer with outline applications invited for the 6th September 2017, and full application deadline in January 2018. Notification of decisions of funding awards will be made by the disease, treatment and health subcommittees, and will be available in June 2018.

Our usual fellowship offers, including clinical research fellowships, career development fellowships, foundation fellowships, PhD scholarships, and senior research fellowships, will be available to underpin the ongoing development of a strong musculoskeletal researcher base.

All our current funding opportunities and associated deadlines can be found here. Please make sure to routinely keep abreast of our activities and opportunities by visiting our news for researchers page.

Thank you

We are sure that 2017 will certainly be as busy as 2016, with new partnerships with institutions and other funders beginning to take root. As we look to 2017 we are truly excited about the challenges ahead working with such an engaged and dedicated community of researchers to make the biggest difference possible to the lives of people with arthritis.

We would like to take the opportunity to thank you all for your interest and support and to wish you all best wishes for a healthy and happy 2017.

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Arthritis Research UK fund research into the cause, treatment and cure of arthritis. You can support Arthritis Research UK by volunteering, donating or visiting our shops.