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Our history and achievements

The early years

Arthritis Research UK began life as the Empire Rheumatism Council, set up in 1936 by Dr Will Copeman, a physician and Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians (RCP), and other like-minded doctors, who were committed to stopping the pain of arthritis.

  • 1950s - the charity began to train doctors and medical students and educate the public.
  • 1956 - the first information booklet on rheumatoid arthritis was produced, one followed on osteoarthritis two years later.
  • 1960s onwards - our research began to show that arthritis is neither simply a wear and tear condition, nor an inevitable part of ageing.
  • 1990s - our flagship research centre, the Kennedy Institute was responsible for the charity’s biggest success yet. This was the research by scientists Tiny Maini and Marc Feldmann into the activities of a disease-causing molecule called tumour necrosis factor (TNF). This led to a whole new class of drugs called anti-TNF therapy which has transformed the lives of people with rheumatoid and other types of inflammatory arthritis over the past 20 years.

Recent years

We remain strongly committed to changing the lives of millions of people with arthritis, including providing information to help people live with arthritis through to funding research. In recent years we have:

  • Undertaken big genome screens to find the genes that cause osteoarthritis, lupus and ankylosing spondylitis.
  • Invested in research to help the millions of people living with osteoarthritis, previously a hugely underfunded area of research, despite causing pain and disability to eight million people in the UK.
  • Supported the testing and development of new treatment for arthritis and related conditions through our network of experimental treatment centres.
  • Carried out research into targeted treatments. Instead of treating all patients with a particular type of arthritis in the same way, the treatment they receive is personalised based on the way the patient experiences their condition and how this affects their response to treatment. This could help the thousands of people with rheumatoid arthritis for whom current drug therapies don’t work.
  • We've worked also hard to ensure key decision makers in government take arthritis more seriously, and make it a priority. Our reports have helped to improve government policy relating to people with arthritis in the healthcare and public health systems.

Learn more about our work

For more information, go to
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.