Our staff

Our staff

Our researchers working on the project are experts in different areas of rheumatoid arthritis and have made major contributions to current understanding of the disease. They include:

Dr Amy Anderson

I am a cellular immunologist with a strong grounding in human translational work. My main research interests are the development of new diagnostic and therapeutic tools for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis (RA). In order to develop these it is vital we fully understand the immune responses in RA that are involved in attacking the body’s own tissue and inducing the inflammatory process.

With this in mind I am particularly interested in a novel subset of B-cells which play a potential role in RA disease pathogenesis via the secretion of autoantibodies and the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines. I collaborate with Dr Dagmar Scheel-Toellner and we currently co-supervise a PhD project investigating the role of these cells in RA. The ultimate aim of this project is to identify novel therapeutic targets that will improve treatment of RA.

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Prof Graham Anderson

I am Professor of T-Lymphocyte Biology in the College of Medical And Dental Sciences at The University of Birmingham. My major research interest is to understand the mechanisms that control the production of T-cells that can participate in immune responses. By understanding these processes, we hope to gain better insight into situations where T-cells are involved in unwanted targeting our own body's tissues, a process called tolerance breakdown that occurs during autoimmune disease. We think that studying the thymus, which represents the sole site for T-cell production, will enable us understand how imbalances in T-cell mediated immune responses take place, which will lead us to more effective treatments of autoimmunity.

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Dr Francesca Barone

I am a clinician scientist and a rheumatology consultant at the University of Birmingham. In May 2016, I was awarded a senior fellowship by Arthritis Research UK. My main interest is to explore how the resident, structural cells (stromal cells) that constitute the organs respond to the products of the immune cells and modify their behaviour in inflammation.  We hope that by gaining a better insight about the intimate relationship between immune cells and resident stroma cells, we can identify new therapeutic targets for autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis.

In RACE, I collaborate with Prof Gerry Graham from the University of Glasgow.  Our shared aim is to understand how small molecules named chemokines can influence the behaviour of the immune cells in target organs during inflammation. 

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Prof Michael Barrett

I am Director of Glasgow Polyomics and a Professor in Biochemical Parasitology in the Institute of Infection, Inflammation and Immunity.

In order to investigate drug action and resistance in parasites I established methodological workflows in metabolomics and genomics.  These approaches have evolved into Glasgow Polyomics, a facility dedicated to the collection and analysis of high throughput genomic, proteomic and metabolomic datasets, together with the computational biology environment required to optimise inference derived from such data.

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Prof Jim Brewer

I am Professor of Basic Immunology in the Institute of Infection, Immunity & Inflammation at the University of Glasgow. My research applies advanced imaging techniques to study the immune system in real time, in vivo. In collaboration with Prof Paul Garside, we have applied these approaches to understand how, when and where immune system cells are switched on and off in arthritis models and identify molecules involved in this decision making process. These studies are enabled by a state of the art, multiphoton microscope system that we have established at the University of Glasgow. We collaborate with physicists, mathematicians and chemists to continue development of new non-invasive, translational cell-imaging approaches.

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Prof Chris Buckley

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Dr Ruaidhri Carmody

The Carmody laboratory is based in the Institute of Infection, Immunity and Inflammation at the University of Glasgow and researches the transcriptional regulation of inflammation with a particular emphasis on the transcription factor family NF-κB. The primary goal of the laboratory is to understand the molecular mechanisms by which gene transcription is regulated during inflammation and to develop ways to exploit transcriptional regulators for therapeutic benefit.

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Prof Andy Clark

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Dr Andrew Filer

I am a senior lecturer and honorary consultant in rheumatology in Birmingham.

I run the Birmingham Early Arthritis BEACON cohort with Prof Karim Raza.  The patients in this cohort help us to develop better tests for use in early arthritis; I have particular expertise in musculoskeletal ultrasound imaging which we are developing as just such a new test. However, we also use this technology to obtain tiny samples from the joint that help us understand the processes going on in the earliest phases of disease.

The focus of my scientific work is to use these samples to examine the role of a specific group of cells (stromal cells or fibroblasts) that appear to play an important role in deciding whether arthritis in joints will persist to become chronic, or get better without long term medication.  This links to a key focus of RACE, which is to understand better the role of stromal cells in chronic disease.  I am leading Birmingham’s role in a separate study where the RACE team members are conducting a clinical trial of a new treatment that targets these cells.

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Dr Ben Fisher

I am a Senior Clinical Lecturer at the University of Birmingham with a research focus on clinical aspects of both rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and Sjögren’s syndrome.

I have a long-standing interest in antibodies to citrullinated proteins (ACPA), which have a strong association with RA and may be detected years before the onset of RA symptoms.  Understanding why these occur, and why someone with these antibodies goes on to develop RA, may give important clues to treating and even preventing the earliest phases of RA. I have been involved in studying ACPA in relation to genetic and environmental risk factors for RA, and in the pre-disease state. I am actively involved in observational studies and clinical trials in RA through participation in national collaborations.

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Prof Paul Garside

I am based in the Institute of Infection, Immunity and Inflammation at the University of Glasgow where the long standing theme of my research has been to investigate the fundamentals of immune regulation and apply any findings to autoimmune disease.  

In partnership with Prof Jim Brewer we will apply the latest microscope techniques to see how the cells of the immune system move and interact.  In order to better understand the early biological events that can lead to arthritis, we will seek to determine how the cells of the immune system move in and out of the organs where they are first switched on (lymph nodes or 'glands') and make their way to the tissues they might attack (e.g. joints). How do these cells 'find' and then 'talk' to each other and what it is about these 'conversations' that leads to the development of arthritis.

In turn, this may lead to the development of new drugs to interfere in these processes and prevent or reduce disease.

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Dr Carl Goodyear

I am Director of the GLAZgo Discovery Centre and a Reader within the Centre for Immunobiology in the Institute of Infection, Inflammation and Immunity.

The GLAZgo Discovery Centre, a new and ambitious collaboration between the University of Glasgow and AstraZeneca, is aimed at identifying new pathways by which inflammation can promote diseases and ultimately create better medicines for patients. This centre complements my own research group, which is focused on understanding immunopathogenesis of Rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis and translating this knowledge into viable therapeutics. I also lead a Translational Immunology programme that provides the critical interface between clinical and basic science.

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Prof Gerry Graham

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Prof Margaret Harnett

I am Professor of Immune Signalling in the Centre of Immunobiology at the University of Glasgow.

My lab focuses on the signalling mechanisms underpinning development of the immune response in health and disease in order to identify novel immunomodulatory drug targets to combat infection, inflammatory disease and cancer. The Hygiene Hypothesis predicts that the recent dramatic increase in autoimmunity partly reflects the rapid eradication of parasitic worms in the industrialised world, leaving us with unbalanced hyper-reactive immune systems. Striking inverse relationships between the incidence of musculoskeletal diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) and helminth infection are beginning to emerge in the developing world.

In collaboration with Prof Billy Harnett at the University of Strathclyde, a particular focus has been to exploit the immunomodulatory properties of parasitic worm product ES-62 to identify key molecular and cellular nodes regulating pathogenesis in RA and SLE. This helps us identify novel targets for therapeutic intervention in these inflammatory diseases and has led to the generation of ES-62-mimicking compounds that can potentially be developed as novel anti-inflammatory drugs. Our Facebook site and website have more information about this. 

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Dr Catharien Hilkens

I am a Reader in Immunotherapy at Newcastle University.

My main research interests are to develop a new cellular immunotherapy for rheumatoid arthritis (RA), and to improve our understanding of how the immune system is involved in causing and maintaining joint inflammation in RA. I am the scientific coordinator of the Newcastle branch of the rheumatoid arthritis centre of excellence (RACE).

Within RACE, I have started a new collaboration with Dr. Simon Milling (Glasgow University) to explore the role of so called ‘dendritic cells’ - highly specialised immune cells - in causing joint inflammation in RA patients.

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Prof John Issacs

I am Director of the Institute of Cellular Medicine at Newcastle University and a consultant rheumatologist at the Freeman Hospital.

My expertise is in the development of novel immunotherapies to treat rheumatoid arthritis (RA).  I am also interested in the abnormal immune response that underpins RA and my special interest is in tolerance inducing therapies.  These have the capacity to ‘switch off’ the abnormal immune response, and provide long-term benefit from a brief period of treatment. 

My research ranges from target identification through to early and late-stage clinical trials.  

My role within the RACE programme is to oversee and provide scientific guidance to laboratory research programmes in Newcastle, provide clinical input and to mentor the next generation of rheumatology researchers.

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Shane Kelly

I am based at the University of Glasgow and am employed to ensure that the systems used on the IIIformatics platform www.stemformatics.org/projects/iiiformatics  function properly and provide the scientists and clinicians with the information that they need to enable their research.

My passion, experience and training is in computers, computer support, networks and specialist servers including email, file and web.

Currently, I am focussing on preparing our systems to visualise many large data sets in a meaningful way in response to queries from the research team.

Dr Vicky Morrison

I am an Arthritis Research UK Career Development Fellow within the Institute of Infection, Immunity and Inflammation at the University of Glasgow.

The focus of my research is to understand how dendritic cells, the key immune cell type responsible for inducing immune activation or tolerance, are controlled by adhesion molecules expressed on their cell surface called integrins. Using models of inflammation, tolerance and autoimmunity (rheumatoid arthritis), I am investigating how integrins suppress dendritic cell function, and how this influences interactions with T cells and the subsequent immune response.

Within RACE, I collaborate with Dr Catharien Hilkens at Newcastle University and together we co-supervise a PhD project which aims to advance into human cell studies. Specifically, we are determining the role of integrins in regulating human dendritic cells under normal and inflammatory arthritis settings, and investigating the therapeutic potential of this novel regulatory pathway.

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Dr Mariola Kurowska-Stolarska

I am based in the Institute of Infection, Immunity and Inflammation at the University of Glasgow.

Our immune cells protect us against infection by attacking microbes.  Sometimes these immune cells inappropriately attack our joints causing rheumatoid arthritis. Our genes control the behaviour of immune cells but we don’t know what controls this inappropriate behaviour of the genes.

Thus, better understanding of gene-control is required to identify better treatment options. This is crucially important now because

  • Around 30% of arthritis patients do not respond well to current drugs
  • New treatment that controls the immune cells involved at the earliest stages of RA will limit subsequent joint damage.

There is a huge potential in newly-discovered regulators of gene activity called microRNAs. We have discovered that some of them such as microRNA-155, 34a and miR-125a are altered in immune cells of RA patients and this leads to aberrant activation of the cells. 

We will investigate whether targeting these microRNAs or their function could be beneficial in ameliorating arthritis.

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Prof Peter Lane

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Dr Helen McGettrick

I am an Arthritis Research UK Career Development Fellow at the University of Birmingham.

Inflammation is the body's protective response to injury that aims to clear infectious organisms and repair tissue damage.  A key element of this response is the controlled recruitment of immune cells (leukocytes) from the blood into the affected tissue.  Tissue resident cells (fibroblasts) act to control inflammation, controlling the movement of leukocytes from the blood and into inflamed tissues.  One way they can achieve this is by talking to neighbouring endothelial cells lining the blood vessel wall. 

Our major goal is to understand how fibroblasts and endothelial cells 'talk' to each other to regulate the leukocyte recruitment during inflammation, and how this goes wrong in during the development of RA. Key concepts are can we change the instructions given by the fibroblasts such that they either block leukocyte entry into tissue or tell leukocytes to leave the tissue?

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Prof Iain McInnes

I am Muirhead Chair of Medicine and the Director of the Institute of Infection, Immunity and Inflammation at the University of Glasgow. I studied medicine at the University of Glasgow before training in internal medicine and rheumatology and completing my PhD Immunology and post-doctoral studies.

I have established an internationally recognised role in translational rheumatology, having studied the pathways that lead to inflammation in the joints of people with rheumatoid and psoriatic arthritis.  I have also been working on the reasons why people with arthritis go on to develop increased rates of vascular disease e.g. heart attacks and strokes. I have been privileged to serve as chair of several committees of the European League Against Rheumatism (EULAR) and the American College of Rheumatology (ACR).

I am the Chair of the RACE Management Committee, responsible for strategic direction, prioritisation and co-ordination of the project across the 3 universities.

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Dr Simon Milling  

I am a Reader at the Centre for Immunobiology in Glasgow.

My lab focuses on the biology of dendritic cells in the blood and in the intestine, and on how these cells respond to infections or to inflammation. I am especially interested in the differences between the functions of the different types of dendritic cells. My laboratory investigates how dendritic cells control the immune response, and their contributions to inflammatory diseases.

This work now contributes to two projects in the RACE programme. With Catharien Hilkens, I will be investigating the effects of rheumatoid arthritis on dendritic cell functions. With David Withers, I will be investigating the functions of innate lymphoid cells, and how they might also contribute to inflammatory disease. It is hoped that this information will be useful for manipulating the immune response, either to generate improved strategies for inhibiting inflammatory pathology.

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Prof Wan-Fai Ng

I am a professor and honorary consultant in rheumatology with a background in immunology research based in Newcastle. 

I am especially interested in how the immune system regulates immune responses: the mechanisms regulating how immune reactions are directed at invading pathogens without harming our own body.

My current research focuses on dissecting the relationships between biological disturbances (in particularly in the immune system) and clinical manifestations of autoimmune rheumatic diseases (e.g. disease severity, fatigue, lymphoma risk).  The longer term goal is to develop more individualised treatment for people suffering from these conditions.

Within RACE, I am a committee member overseeing the PhD studentship scheme.

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Dr Paola de Pablo

I am a Clinical Lecturer in Rheumatology at the University of Birmingham and the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust.  I am involved in managing patients with rheumatoid and other types of inflammatory arthritis and rheumatic diseases.

I am a rheumatologist and epidemiologist, interested in the etiology of the rheumatic inflammatory diseases, in particular of rheumatoid arthritis (RA).  My research interests include the risk factors associated with the development of RA and comorbidities, including atherosclerosis, bone loss and periodontal disease, as well as the prediction of outcome, clinical trials, outcome measures and markers of response to therapy.  I am currently exploring in a clinical trial how periodontitis might lead to worse arthritis and whether treatment of periodontal disease will improve the symptoms of patients with rheumatoid arthritis.

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Dr Arthur Pratt

I am a Clinical Research Fellow at Newcastle University specialising in rheumatology.

My special interest is in early intervention in RA and tailoring treatment to individual patients.  Every patient with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is different.  This is reflected not only in the individual course of the disease, but also individual differences in response to treatments.  These differences present a challenge for doctors trying to diagnose the disease at its earliest stage, and trying to select the right drug for the right patient.  Does this person really have RA?  What drug should they receive?  

We believe the answers to these questions will come only through a better understanding of some of the earliest events in the disease process. Evidence to date highlights the importance of a particular type of immune cell in orchestrating joint inflammation in RA, called the CD4+ T cell.

By carefully examining the patterns by which genes and proteins of CD4+ T cells from patients with early arthritis are "switched on" or "switched off," and how these patterns may differ between patient groups, we aim to develop tools that will ultimately be helpful not only for diagnosing RA, but also for predicting responses to the increasing number of drugs available to treat it on a "patient-by-patient" basis. 

My role is to provide scientific guidance to researchers in RACE.

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Prof Karim Raza

I am Professor of Clinical Rheumatology at the University of Birmingham. My research focuses on rheumatoid arthritis addressing pathogenic mechanisms, biomarker development and strategies to enhance clinical outcomes for patients with a new onset of disease. Specifically I am interested in:

Mechanisms driving the molecular basis for the switch to disease persistence and the timing of this switch in early arthritis.Predictors of outcome in patients with early inflammatory arthritis.Novel anti-inflammatory mechanisms that may be useful in the control of persistent inflammation, including vitamin D and endogenously generated glucocorticoids.Management pathways for patients with early rheumatoid arthritis, including the development of strategies to facilitate rapid patient assessment

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Dr Dagmar Scheel-Toellner

I am a Reader in the Centre for Translational Inflammation Research at the University of Birmingham.  My team investigates the contribution of immune cells to joint destruction in chronic inflammation.  We have recently identified a novel pro-inflammatory B cell population in the joints of patients with rheumatoid arthritis and are now investigating their contribution to disease and their suitability as a drug target.  Furthermore, we are studying how these cells interact with another type of inflammatory cell.  These cells, neutrophils, produce the modified proteins that specifically drive the activation of B cells in the joints of RA patients.

Our long term aim is to identify new therapeutic targets and strategies for improved treatment of rheumatoid arthritis.

Within RACE, I am a member of the committee that oversees PhD studentships scheme.

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Dr Stefan Siebert

I am Clinical Senior Lecturer in Rheumatology at the University of Glasgow and Honorary Consultant Rheumatologist with NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde.

As clinical researcher, I am involved in managing patients with rheumatoid and other types of inflammatory arthritis, studying mechanisms that underlie these conditions and running clinical trials of new therapies.

I have a particular interest in psoriatic arthritis and spondyloarthritis, and in comparing how the underlying immune processes differ from rheumatoid arthritis. This approach has the potential to yield information about the underlying mechanisms and possible therapeutic targets for each of these conditions.

I am also interested in understanding the effects of current arthritis therapies using a variety of immunological, laboratory and health informatics approaches.

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Dr Christine Wells

I am a Reader in Immunology at the University of Glasgow. I have an interest in the processes of tissue injury, inflammation and repair. I work on the interplay between innate immune cells  and stem cells. I run research programs in gene discovery and characterisation in both stem cell biology and activated macrophages. Macrophages and tissue stem cells are important regulators of healthy tissue repair and regeneration, and both contribute to the activation and resolution of inflammation. Better understanding of how these cells work may help us to find a way to prevent rheumatoid arthritis. 

My laboratory works to a founding ethos of collaboration, and my research encompasses computational method development that is aimed at improving the analysis and visualisation of genomic datasets. We want to make sure that those datasets relevant to arthritis researchers are easy to access and straight forward to use and understand. My group has developed the www.stemformatics.org/projects/iiiformatics  platform to allow RACE researchers to share and compare data and analysis from arthritis studies, and we continue to enhance this.

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Dr David Withers 

I am a Wellcome Trust funded Fellow at the MRC Centre for Immunoregulation in Birmingham.

My lab focuses on the biology of innate lymphoid cells within secondary lymphoid tissue and how these cells contribute to adaptive immune responses and the generation of immunological memory.  I am particularly interested in a specific population of innate lymphoid cells that express the transcription factor RORg and are concentrated within the intestine and lymph nodes that drain such mucosal sites.  We think these are important cells in controlling the responses of CD4 T cells, a key cell type in protective immune responses, but also in inflammatory disease.  This work now contributes to a project with Dr Simon Milling in the RACE programme.

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Prof Andrew Yates

I am the Meston Chair of Mathematical Immunology and Rheumatology at the University of Glasgow. I take quantitative approaches to tackling questions relating to fundamental immunology as well as what might be termed the within-host 'ecology' of invading pathogens and the immune responses to them. I trained in theoretical physics and cosmology, but have worked as a quantitative biologist for the last 16 years. My interests in basic immunology centre on T lymphocytes, white blood cells that are a central component of our immune system. I am particularly interested in how newly developing T cells are schooled for their job - how they decide to become conventional T cells capable of fighting infections, or regulatory T cells that promote tolerance.

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Dr Stephen Young

I am a Reader in the Rheumatology Research Group at the University of Birmingham and the focus of my research is how metabolism, genes and environment interact to promote the immune dysfunction which may drive chronic musculoskeletal diseases, with a particular focus on rheumatoid arthritis (RA). To understand these complex interactions driving disease we have been developing metabolomic analysis of samples taken from patients and extracted from cells grown in vitro. These are used to probe global changes in metabolic pathways as signatures of disease activity in vivo and to understand the altered function of stromal and immune cells which associate with inflamed and damaged tissue. Using this approach we been able to predict at an early stage of disease the commitment to chronic RA based on metabolic profiles of serum, and to predict responses to therapy following analysis of urinary metabolites.

The function of leukocytes is perturbed in RA, which is in part a result of polymorphisms in genes such as PTPN22 which regulate their responses, but may also be influenced by changes in metabolism.  Future work will focus on how these factors interact to alter immune dysfunction which may promote chronic disease.

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