June 2020 research newsletter


First of all, we would like to thank our research community for their response during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Many have been involved in the frontline response to the pandemic or have showed great innovation to adapt their ongoing research or propose ideas for new COVID-19 related research.

We have the deepest appreciation for all that you have been contributing on all our behalves. We are pleased that some researchers are now able to return to their research posts and we will continue to reach out and work with institutions to support the return to lab spaces as and when this becomes possible.

As a charity, we continue to respond to the needs of people with arthritis. Our helpline team are still busy providing support and advice and we continue to adapt our other services.

For example, we have recently extended our new online assistant - COVA - in collaboration with the BSR to give healthcare professionals easy access to the latest clinical COVID-19 information.

Together with other charities and colleagues at AMRC, we have continued to press the Government to help work in partnership to mitigate the threats to the UK medical charity funding sector (PDF, 135 KB).

Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic we have monitored the musculoskeletal research landscape closely, considering new ideas and opportunities as they have arisen.

We're delighted to have been able to support a small number of COVID-19 related studies and we remain interested in hearing from the community about how you and your research may address the impact of COVID-19 on musculoskeletal diseases.

Please get in touch with research@versusarthritis.org if you’d like to discuss your ideas with us.

In the meantime, I hope you and your teams and families stay safe and well.

£14m call for consortia to tackle chronic pain now open

Pain is a number one concern for people with arthritis. Versus Arthritis have partnered with UKRI to create the biggest single investment ever in pain research in the UK, the Advanced Pain Discovery Platform. This platform aims to improve our understanding of chronic pain and pave the way in identifying new treatments.

We're now pleased to announce the launch of a £14m call for large and ambitious multidisciplinary consortia as part of this platform. These will bring together researchers across the breadth of biomedical, social, and data sciences. We welcome expressions of interest for this by 31 August. Find more information, see our types of grant.

We're also delighted to announce that Professor David Walsh has been appointed as director of the APDP. He brings a wealth of experience in pain research and a passion for putting patients at the centre of research.

Read more about the appointment.

New study to explore fatigue in COVID-19

Profound and persistent fatigue with muscle aches has emerged as a frequent symptom of COVID-19 infection. In partnership with the Kennedy Trust, we're funding research at King's College London to investigate if immune function can predict development of chronic fatigue following COVID-19 infection.

Researchers will use people enrolled in studies at King’s College London who have previously had their immune systems studied, including members of the TwinsUK registry.

The researchers will encourage this group to use the King’s Covid19 Symptom Tracker App (which has 2.6 million users), to help them to identify COVID-19 cases and associated symptoms.

More detailed fatigue data will then be gathered using questionnaires. It's hoped this data will how pre-existing differences in the immune system predict the onset of fatigue, its intensity and persistence both in COVID-19, and in musculoskeletal conditions.

Championing involvement in research

Unlike engagement, which seeks to increase an understanding of research, involvement means people affected by arthritis can influence and shape your research.

At this challenging time when research is at the forefront of minds and there's great demand for rapid discoveries, we know that some may be questioning if you have time to do involvement well. When in fact, the question should be, do you have time not to?

There's a growing body of evidence showing that investing time in effective involvement improves design for clinical research by speeding up recruitment and consent. Effective involvement puts people with arthritis are at the heart of every stage of your research, and ensures the research focuses on what is most relevant to them.

Working in collaboration with people with arthritis is incredibly motivating and their insight can help foresee practical issues in the research. By involving people with arthritis, you can also become much better at articulating the overall aim of your research, a crucial skill that can always be improved.

Even in lockdown, we know some of you have developed innovative ways to continue to plan and conduct involvement activities with people affected by arthritis. Please keep us updated!

Read our involvement guide for researchers (PDF, 881 KB).

Upcoming opportunities and deadlines

Foundation fellowships
Deadline 17 June 2020

Medical Technologies proof of concept
Deadline 30 June 2020

The Outstanding Fellows Prize
Deadline 1 July 2020

Advance Pain Discovery Platform consortia
Expression of interest by 31 August 2020
Full applications in January 2021

MRC/Versus Arthritis Clinical Scientist Fellowship (in partnership)
Deadlines 2 September 2020, 7 January 2021

Career development fellowships
Deadline 9 September 2020

Senior research fellowships
Deadline 9 September 2020

Academy of Medical Sciences Starter grants for Clinical Lecturers (in partnership)
Deadline September 2020

PhD scholarships
Call coming soon

Find out more about our types of grants.

Introducing: new chair of our Fellowship Expert Group

Research capable of transforming lives of people with arthritis requires exceptional researchers.

We understand the need to support the careers of people behind the research as well as their projects. We do this through research fellowships for clinical and non-clinical scientists to develop cutting-edge research.

We're delighted to announce that Professor Gretl McHugh has joined the Fellowship expert group as the new Chair.

Read more about the appointment.

Keeping research connected

In May we hosted two Keeping Research Connected webinars, which brought together over 200 people from our research community.

We shared how our research and wider charity activities are being affected and how the research sector as a whole has been impacted by COVID-19. We also celebrated some examples of the remarkable innovation and adaption that we are seeing in our research community and in our charity.

If you missed it, you can watch it on our YouTube channel. You can also view the presentation slides and answers to all your questions on our news for researchers.

We'd love to hear from you!

If you have any feedback regarding our newsletter, or have any questions please get in touch.