New £4 Million Call for Research to Improve Diagnosis and Treatment of Arthritis

Funding of up to £800,000 over five years is available for research to develop ambitious patient-specific approaches for the detection and treatment of arthritis that removes the variability accounting for genetics, environment and lifestyle.

Versus Arthritis has launched a new £4 million Call for Applications – ‘Priorities 2023: Accelerating Diagnosis and Treatment‘ – to fund research into the early detection and prevention of arthritis and the development of reliable and effective personalised diagnosis, treatment and interventions to halt or reverse disease progression. The overall aim of the call is to support novel research that develops ambitious patient-specific approaches and removes the variability in diagnosis and treatment, accounting for individual genes, environment and lifestyle.

Funding ranging from £50,000 to £800,000 over five years (60 months) is available to researchers based at universities, hospitals or other academic research institutes in the UK for biological, psychological and social research projects that will advance the translational pathway towards new or improved approaches to prevention, diagnosis or treatment.

Research should address unmet needs around secondary prevention (detecting predisposition and early stages of disease and targeting pre-clinical or pre-symptomatic disease intervention) more so than primary prevention and public health agendas. Projects should consider individuals as a whole and take into account multi-factor approaches, multiple conditions, symptoms (pain, fatigue, mental health) and experiences, rather than focussing on discrete conditions and symptoms.

The call scope includes all types of arthritis and their differential development at any stage of life. Funding awards are available for a range of different size projects across the biological, psychological and social research spectrum, encompassing fields of expertise including scientific, health professions, diagnostic/intervention, medical technology and data.

Funding is available for projects in the following areas:

  • Pre-disease pathophysiology – understanding mechanisms underlying symptom development and risk to enable prevention and early diagnosis to reduce the impact of disease.
  • Diagnostic markers and indicators – developing reliable pre-symptomatic markers and diagnostic disease indicators and biomarkers (including digital biomarkers) to predict and detect arthritis at the earliest possible stage. This can encompass assay development and validation where there is a clear development pathway to clinical implementation, as well as use of exploratory end-points to provide clinical validity in the development of new measures.
  • Genetic risk scores – exploring use as part of routine clinical management for arthritis conditions known to be genetically linked.
  • Social and psychological influences – understanding the social and psychological factors and health inequalities that influence and/or predict disease development, not extending into factors influencing disease progression and outcome.
  • Precision medicine and profiling/stratification approaches – working across multi-omics platforms, informatics, digital data sources and medical technologies developing and improving targeted treatments and personalised interventions to halt or reverse disease progression. This includes identifying people with distinct mechanisms of disease, lived experience or particular response to treatments to understand when and in whom a treatment may or may not be effective.
  • Alternatives to drugs or surgery – developing reliable, cost-effective psychotherapeutic and social interventions.
  • Disease linkage – understanding of how diseases are linked, and where what is learned about one disease can be used to tackle other diseases.
  • Disease agnostic pathways – understanding of common mechanisms of disease, particularly chronic inflammation, autoimmunity and immune-mediated inflammation.

Proposed studies must advance the translational pathway towards new or improved approaches to prevention, diagnosis or treatment. The future benefit for people with arthritis should be clearly and reasonably discussed within the application and it should be clear from the application what the next step will be beyond the proposed study.

Applications are invited from academics, clinicians or allied health care professionals based at universities, hospitals or recognised academic research institutes in the UK. At least one applicant or co-applicant must hold a tenured position within the lead institute. Lead applicants and/or co-applicants should have expertise in a relevant area but are not required to have a specific track record of musculoskeletal research.

Applications for the Priorities 2023 Call should be submitted by the deadline on 9 November 2022.

Successful applicants will be notified in March/April 2023 and the anticipated earliest project start date is May 2023.

Versus Arthritis is also inviting applications to conduct an evidence review on ways to measure, assess and treat chronic fatigue associated with long-term musculoskeletal conditions. The outputs of the review will help to inform an ongoing analysis by Versus Arthritis and the Kennedy Trust to identify priorities for musculoskeletal fatigue research. A total budget of £100,000 is available to fund a scoping study over a 12 month period that covers scientific and clinical evidence and incorporates the needs of people living with chronic fatigue.

Applications for the Fatigue Evidence Review should be submitted by the deadline on 7 November 2022.

(This report was the subject of a RESEARCHconnect Newsflash.)