UCD will lead new €21m research project on psoriatic arthritis

2 Jul 2021

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A new multimillion-euro research project aims to give patients with psoriatic arthritis a better quality of life.

Researchers at UCD will receive a €21m budget to investigate early identification and improve outcomes for psoriatic arthritis patients as part of a project called Hippocrates, announced today (2 July).

A team of international researchers, pharmaceutical companies, SMEs and patient organisations will look at the disease progression in an effort to improve diagnostic and therapeutic options for patients living with psoriatic arthritis.

Psoriatic arthritis is a chronic immune-mediated inflammatory disease that affects joints and other components of the musculoskeletal system. It is estimated that between 5m and 10m people living in the EU are affected by the disease.

The symptoms of the disease include pain, joint stiffness and fatigue and can impact on many aspects of life including function and productivity.

Overall, it is increasingly recognised that psoriatic arthritis is associated with multiple comorbidities, or conditions that are present in the same person at the same time, particularly those affecting mental health such as depression and those which contribute to the observed increase in cardiovascular morbidity and mortality.

The disease most commonly develops on a background of established skin or nail psoriasis, however it can be difficult to diagnose as there are no diagnostic criteria or laboratory tests available. This can contribute to diagnostic delay and poor outcomes.

“We anticipate that the advances provided by Hippocrates will result in significant new developments that improve patients’ quality of life,” said Prof Oliver FitzGerald, co-ordinator of the Hippocrates group.

The five-year project has been funded by the Innovative Medicines Initiative, a joint undertaking of the EU and the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA).

Of the total budget, 50pc is being contributed by the EFPIA partners (Novartis, UCB, Pfizer and BMS) and 50pc by the EU.

The study aims to revolutionise treatment of the disease in the hope that patients will benefit from earlier diagnoses and a more accurate prediction of their disease progression.

“This public-private partnership is a great opportunity to decipher this highly heterogenous disease, and to enable the development of novel [psoriatic arthritis] therapies and treatment strategies including precision medicine approaches,” said Dr Christine Huppertz of Novartis, who is the EFPIA lead of the research consortium.

Blathnaid O’Dea was a Careers reporter at Silicon Republic until 2024.