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Coeliac UK Joins Charity Initiative To End Autoimmune Conditions

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A first-of-its-kind research charity research partnership has attracted further support in confronting the UK’s high prevalence of autoimmune conditions.

Coeliac UK has joined the Connect Immune Research initiative, which includes the type 1 diabetes charity JDRF, the MS Society, Versus Arthritis, Alopecia UK, the Psoriasis and Psoriatic Arthritis Alliance, and supporting partner the British Society for Immunology.

The organisations will work together to accelerate research into autoimmune conditions, which see the body’s immune system mistakenly attack healthy cells.

Autoimmune conditions affect an estimated four million people in the UK – equivalent to more than six per cent of the population – but are currently incurable.

This includes 670,000 with coeliac disease, caused by a reaction to gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley and rye.

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.

Dr Heidi Urwin, Director of Evidence and Policy at Coeliac UK said:

“Coeliac disease is a common autoimmune condition which affects 1 in 100 people in the UK, but currently only around 30% of people are diagnosed. We are delighted to join the Connect Immune Research initiative as an associate member and look forward to working alongside a wider range of expert researchers and other charities.

“It’s really important that researchers share knowledge and collaborate to advance understanding to achieve earlier discoveries. This initiative will hopefully accelerate progress in developing new and effective therapies for autoimmune conditions and may even reveal ways to prevent them!”

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

“The UK is a world leader in immunology research, but for too long teams have been working separately, focusing on specific conditions rather than the connections between them. As more organisations join the Connect Immune Research initiative, bringing with them their experience and knowledge, we will come much closer to the research breakthroughs that will be transformational for people with autoimmune conditions.”