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Ten new research projects to tackle the root cause of life-changing autoimmune conditions announced

3D illustration of antibodies attacking a cellTen new autoimmunity research projects are announced today, receiving nearly £1 million from the partnership of the Lorna and Yuti Chernajovsky Biomedical Research Foundation and Connect Immune Research, a coalition of immune-related medical research charities.


In all autoimmune conditions, our immune systems attack healthy cells in the body, causing symptoms that have the potential to severely limit people’s lives. They affect an estimated four million people in the UK – equivalent to more than six per cent of the population – but are currently incurable. Examples include type 1 diabetes, coeliac disease, multiple sclerosis (MS), psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis and alopecia. Although these conditions affect different parts of the body, we know from observing commonalities that they are somehow linked, and that better understanding this link will pave the way to improved treatments for all autoimmune conditions.

The ten new 12-month pilot projects will explore how to target pathways common to the development of multiple autoimmune diseases to increase our understanding and generate new treatments. The ultimate aim of this initiative is to deliver significant new investment to confront the UK’s high prevalence of autoimmunity and develop new treatments for multiple autoimmune conditions, faster.

As Maxine Pancaldi, an autoimmune patient representative notes, “It is incredibly encouraging to see this collaboration gather speed. Having the combined involvement and input of all parties enriches the goals and outcomes and brings additional direction for researchers. It truly gives hope to those of us living with autoimmune conditions that a concentration of minds, resources and findings will unlock the mysteries of the immune system."

The studies funded by this initiative will take a number of approaches to increase our understanding of autoimmunity and how to treat it including:

  • Examining the genetics of autoimmunity
  • Looking for potential new immunotherapy treatments for autoimmunity
  • Analysing how gut health might affect autoimmunity
  • Building knowledge of how different types of immune cell are involved in the development of autoimmune conditions

This first round of pilot grants aims to quickly develop proof of principle for potential new treatments for multiple autoimmune conditions by examining similarities between the different diseases. On completion, the most promising projects will be invited to apply for follow-on funding to take their work forward.

Professor Yuti Chernajovsky, co-founder and trustee of the Lorna and Yuti Chernajovsky Biomedical Research Foundation, said:

“The Chernajovsky Foundation is delighted to be funding these innovative translational research projects with our Connect Immune Research partners, which we hope will improve the lives of people living with autoimmune conditions. We look forward to seeing the projects develop as part of a new collaborative approach to research on autoimmunity.”

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

“These awards are evidence that the UK research community is just as determined as the Connect Immune Research partnership to think about autoimmunity in a new way. This funding partnership with the Chernajovsky foundation has provided the opportunity for 10 teams to come together to tackle these complex life-changing diseases in new ways, and we are so excited to see where these pilot projects can lead.”

Dr Neha Issar-Brown, Director of Research and Health Intelligence at Versus Arthritis, said:

 “We are determined to make Arthritis preventable, treatable and curable. We know that our partners in this pioneering initiative are equally keen to understand and exploit the shared underlying immunological mechanisms for several other chronic, autoimmune conditions that severely limit people lives. Combining the heft, the resources and the expertise in a collaborative manner such as this is a sure way of ensuring research makes a bigger difference to people’s lives, at pace and we are delighted to be part of this forward-thinking endeavour.”

Nick Moberly, Chief Executive of the MS Society, said:

“We’re thrilled by the wide range of research projects receiving funding. They will help us gain a better understanding of autoimmune diseases with the ultimate aim of finding new treatments. MS is relentless, painful and disabling. Around a third of people living with an autoimmune condition have more than one, and they say they want us to do all we can to further research. The collaboration between The Connect Immune Research group and the Lorna and Yuti Chernajovsky Biomedical Research Foundation brings together researchers from across autoimmune conditions to uncover the common threads in their work. We hope this will lead to new treatments, faster.”

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 has joined forces with the Lorna and Yuti Chernajovsky Biomedical Research Foundation to fund these innovative projects that prioritise a collaborative, integrated approach to autoimmune research. By building on the UK’s existing strength in autoimmune research, we aim to bring together the best brains in immunology to study different autoimmune diseases together, driving forward our understanding of the underlying biological mechanisms and developing new treatments, which will ultimately transform the lives of people living with these conditions.” 

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Notes for journalists

Further information on the grants funded through this call can be found here.

For further information, contact the British Society for Immunology press office:

Jennie Evans – Tel: 07703 807 444; j.evans@immunology.org

The Lorna and Yuti Chernajovsky Biomedical Research Foundation was set up in 2019 to improve public health by providing grants to support high-quality biomedical research into the development of new targeted biomedical therapies. 

Connect Immune Research is a partnership of charities who are dedicated to tackling autoimmune conditions. Members include the type 1 diabetes charity JDRF, Versus Arthritis, MS Society, British Society for Immunology, Alopecia UK, Coeliac UK, Psoriasis and Psoriatic Arthritis Alliance and Bowel Research UK.

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 jdrf.org.uk or follow us on Twitter: @JDRFUK.

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 www.mssociety.org.uk. We’re driving research into more – and better – treatments for everyone. Together we’re strong enough to stop MS.

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: www.versusarthritis.org.

The British Society for Immunology is the UK organisation representing scientists and clinicians who study the immune system. Our mission is to support our immunology community in driving scientific discovery and making a positive impact on health. Find out more at www.immunology.org.

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 www.alopecia.org.uk or follow us on Twitter: @alopeciauk.

The Psoriasis and Psoriatic Arthritis Alliance (PAPAA) is an independently funded charity, which supports and advises people affected by psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis. Our vision is to see psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis managed in a positive way, more effectively, by putting people affected at the centre of care. We act ethically, with integrity on behalf of our constituent group and advocate and represent them fairly. We support researchers via a small grants scheme and provide healthcare professionals with resources to support their patients, along with access to an accredited professional training programme. For more information, please visit www.papaa.org or follow us on Twitter: @PsoriasisInfo

For over 50 years, Coeliac UK has been the expert on coeliac disease and the gluten free diet. We are an independent charity helping people living without gluten to live happier, healthier lives. We do this by providing trustworthy advice and support, funding critical research into coeliac disease, working with healthcare professionals to improve diagnosis and fighting for better availability of gluten free food. And we do it all so that one day, no one’s life will be limited by gluten. For more information visit www.coeliac.org.uk or follow us on Twitter: @Coeliac_UK and on LinkedIn: @coeliac-uk.

Bowel Research UK is funding life-changing research into bowel cancer and other bowel diseases. Every year over 16,000 people die from bowel cancer in the UK and over a million suffer from bowel disease. By researching cutting edge treatments and investing in the best science, Bowel Research UK is working towards saving and improving people’s lives. The charity was founded in 2020 following a merger between two well-respected charities: Bowel & Cancer Research and Bowel Disease Research Foundation (BDRF).