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Alopecia UK joins pioneering charity initiative to end autoimmune conditions

25 January 2021

A first-of-its-kind research charity research partnership has attracted further backing in its aim to confront the UK’s high prevalence of autoimmune conditions.

Alopecia UK has joined the Connect Immune Research initiative, alongside founding members the type 1 diabetes research charity JDRF, the MS Society, Versus Arthritis, and supporting partner the British Society for Immunology.

Autoimmune conditions see the body’s immune system mistakenly attack healthy cells in the body.

An estimated four million people in the UK live with an autoimmune condition – equivalent to more than six per cent of the population. 

This includes 400,000 people with type 1 diabetes, over 100,000 living with multiple sclerosis (MS), over 400,000 with rheumatoid arthritis and over 100,000 with alopecia areata – an autoimmune condition that causes hair to fall out.

The Connect Immune Research initiative brings together researchers from across these autoimmune conditions to uncover the common threads in their work – meaning greater efficiency and hopefully new treatments, faster.

As well as accelerating research into new treatments for millions of people, the approach could also dramatically reduce costs. As a result, member charities believe this innovative approach could be key to helping the medical research sector adapt to the impact of the COVID-19 crisis.

Professor Simon Milling, the Research Chair of Alopecia UK, said:

“Alopecia is a common autoimmune condition. Working with a community of researchers, in close contact with patient partners and research charities, we will share knowledge and accelerate progress to developing new and effective therapies. We have common problems at a scientific level, and in operating in a COVID-19-affected world. Together we can find solutions to these problems. We are delighted to be joining Connect Immune Research”.

Dr Doug Brown, Chief Executive of the British Society for Immunology, said:

“Immunology is a vital branch of medical science in which the UK leads the world with new discoveries. Connect Immune Research exploits this UK strength by bringing together the leading talents in immunology to study different autoimmune diseases together. This is an innovative approach to immunology research and will, with even more support, lead to us transforming the lives of people living with autoimmune conditions.”

Rachel Connor, Director of Research Partnerships at the type 1 diabetes charity JDRF, said:

“People living with underlying health conditions are being hit hard. They’re often harder hit directly when contracting COVID-19. They have also often been harder hit by the impact of the pandemic upon public services. That’s why the fight against infectious disease must go hand-in-hand with the fight against long-term health conditions.” 

Dr David Coutts, Senior Research Manager at the MS Society, said:

“We want autoimmunity to be recognised as a distinct area of research science, alongside the likes of cancer, infectious disease and dementia. By autoimmune charities working together in this way, we hope to speed up and bolster research so we can find a way of preventing these conditions. It’s fantastic that Alopecia UK have joined us in this initiative.”

Dr Craig Bullock, Research Discovery and Innovations Lead at Versus Arthritis, said:

“We’ve seen the impact that immunology research has had in the progress towards the COVID vaccines that are now becoming available. These achievements have been cemented through global collaboration with the research community, which is exactly the kind of partnership that Connect Immune Research is all about. With the addition of new members such as Alopecia UK, and the sharing of learning and resources, we will come much closer to the research breakthroughs that will be transformational for people with autoimmune conditions.”

Notes to editors

About Alopecia UK

Alopecia UK is the leading UK charity working to improve the lives of those affected by alopecia through aims of support, awareness and research. We collaborate and work with clinicians, researchers and industry to provide hope and confidence to people with alopecia by funding research into its causes, with the aim of finding treatments, and ultimately, a cure. We keep those with alopecia at the heart of everything we do to ensure that the voice of those with alopecia is always heard.

For more information visit or follow us on Twitter: @alopeciauk

About JDRF

JDRF is the leading global organisation funding type 1 diabetes research. Our mission is to accelerate life-changing breakthroughs to cure, prevent and treat type 1 diabetes and its complications. To accomplish this, JDRF has invested more than £1.5 billion since our inception. We collaborate with the most talented minds to develop and deliver a pipeline of innovative therapies to people living with type 1 diabetes. Our staff and volunteers around the globe are dedicated to campaigning for our vision of a world without type 1 diabetes. 

For more information, please visit or follow us on Twitter: @JDRFUK

About multiple sclerosis and the MS Society

  • Over 130,000 people live with multiple sclerosis (MS) in the UK
  • MS damages nerves in your body and makes it harder to do everyday things, like walk, talk, eat and think
  • It's relentless, painful, and disabling
  • It’s unpredictable and different for everyone
  • The MS Society is here to make life better for people with MS, through research, campaigning, and support.
  • We have a free helpline - 0808 800 8000 and information can be found on our website  
  • We’re driving research into more – and better – treatments for everyone
  • Together we’re strong enough to stop MS

About Versus Arthritis

There are 18.8 million people living with a musculoskeletal (MSK) condition like arthritis in the UK. That’s one in four people, with half of those living in pain every single day. The impact is huge as the condition intrudes on everyday life – affecting the ability to work, care for a family, to move free from pain and live independently. Yet arthritis is often dismissed as an inevitable part of ageing or shrugged off as ‘just a bit of arthritis’. We don’t think this is ok. Versus Arthritis is here to change that. 

Find out more at: 

About the British Society for Immunology

The British Society for Immunology is the leading UK membership organisation working with scientists and clinicians from academia and industry to forward immunology research and application around the world. Our friendly, inclusive community consists of more than 4,200 immunologists, giving us a powerful voice to advocate for immunological science and health for the benefit of society.

Twitter: @britsocimm