March 2023 research newsletter


Welcome to our first research newsletter of 2023. Last year, we were delighted to start the implementation of our research strategy. This included developing our partnership with the Nuffield Foundation to fund research which aims to improve the lives of people living with arthritis and other musculoskeletal conditions. You can read more about this initiative below.

We’d also like to take this time to thank our research community for all your hard work last year as we aim to deliver the change in research that will make arthritis preventable, manageable, and treatable. 2023 is shaping up to be another exciting year at Versus Arthritis as we get ready to launch our new 5-year organisational strategy in the spring which will sit alongside our research strategy.

We are also delighted to welcome our new Chair of the Board of Trustees Kate Tompkins and six new Trustees who were appointed to the Board in December last year. Kate has extensive experience in integrated person-centred care and support, having worked in the community and as a Chief Nurse and Chief Executive in the NHS and as CEO of Cavell Nurses Trust charity. Almost all of our new trustees have a personal connection to our cause, and together bring a diverse range of expertise and experience to support our future development. Find out more about our Board of Trustees.

Neha Issar-Brown our Director of Research and Health Intelligence has left Versus Arthritis. During her tenure, Neha played a pivotal role in developing and beginning to deliver our research strategy and in building strong relationships with others in the research sector.  We are all very grateful to her for all she has delivered for Versus Arthritis and wish her the best of luck for the future.
We will shortly be starting the search for a permanent successor but in the interim Sarah Rudkin, Head of Research Strategy and Growth and Caroline Aylott, Head of Research Delivery will be covering the role.    

Please continue to share the impact of your trailblazing research with us so that we can help give it the profile it deserves. Our research liaison team are working hard on new plans to tell the story of our funded research in accessible and engaging ways, but we can’t do this alone. If you’d like to get involved, then please do get in contact with us at:

Latest developments and activities

Grant Tracker: You spoke, we listened.

At Versus Arthritis, we are continually working to improve our systems and processes when using Grant Tracker. To help inform this practice we have started to send out a survey after each call to obtain user feedback and identify any problems people may have encountered. Thank you for all of your valuable feedback.

As a result of these surveys, we have made the following improvements.

  1. Removed option to import details from ORCiD, as this function was not available.
  2. Corrected word limit on field from 100 characters to 100 words
  3. Improved guidance for all applicants on how to enter and select relevant grants and publications. This has significantly reduced the number of queries we receive and improved the submission experience.
  4. We will redesign future forms to make it easier to add lay co-applicants.

To help us to continue to improve, please do complete the survey should you make an application to Versus Arthritis. Your views are important to us, and they do make a difference.

Call for Applications to Research Advisory Groups.

Are you interested in helping Versus Arthritis develop our research activities? In 2019 we established our Research Advisory Groups which brought together people with lived experience of arthritis, researchers, and healthcare professionals to help guide our research priorities. We are currently seeking to appoint new members to our research advisory groups. For more information on our available positions and how to apply please see our news for researchers web page.

Call for Applications to the Progress Review Committee.

We are seeking clinical and academic members for the Progress Review Committee. This committee provides invaluable expert opinion to the charity regarding the progress of clinical studies with human participants and provides feedback to those award holders within the Versus Arthritis research portfolio.

For more information on our available positions and how to apply please see our news for researchers web page.

New tool for examining musculoskeletal health in England from the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities (OHID)

In November, OHID published a new toolkit to examine musculoskeletal (MSK) health in England, which highlights the prevalence and inequalities of long-term MSK conditions across the population. Future releases will focus on other topics including the impact of MSK conditions on employment and quality of life.

This toolkit is an important step in improving our understanding of the impact of inequalities in MSK health, and this new data will help better inform health professionals and public health services.

For future releases, OHID are looking for new suitable data for the tool, if you have any suggestions you can submit them to Athena Chown at

More information and detailed insight into the tool can be accessed here.

New Research to Improve Work and Well-being for People with MSK Conditions.

Versus Arthritis have partnered with The Nuffield Foundation on a second round of The Oliver Bird Fund, pledging £1.94 million to 6 successful projects focusing on the links between MSK conditions, including rheumatic diseases, and employment, economic, and social well-being.

The six projects share a common theme of improving people’s ability to live and work well, reflecting the research priority of Living Well found in our Research Strategy. They cover a wide range of areas aiming to inform policy and practice within education, employment, social care, and the community.

Reflecting the strengthened partnership, Versus Arthritis have been instrumental in ensuring that people with lived experience are at the centre of the research, aligning to our person-centred research principle. Versus Arthritis Research Partners have helped to shape the call throughout and will continue to advise and enrich the projects as they develop. With this, and the Nuffield Foundation’s knowledge in social wellbeing outside the healthcare system, these new projects are dedicated to ensuring that solutions are tailored to the individual and not the disease, aiming through targeted interventions to improve the social, work, and general quality of life of people living with MSK conditions.

For more information on each of the 6 successful projects visit the Nuffield website.

New guidance for increasing diversity in research participation.

NHS England has published a good practise guide to help increase diversity in research participation. You can read the guide here.

Research highlights from our community

Scientists find an indicator in blood that could guide treatment for Lupus

Researchers building on the success of the BEAT Lupus trial have identified a biomarker which they hope may open the door for more targeted and effective treatment strategies for SLE.

Retinoic Acid- A new drug target for hand osteoarthritis?

New research has found that retinoic acid could play a key role in treating hand osteoarthritis. In the future, this could help us discover more life-changing drugs that tackle pain, stiffness, and fatigue.

Beating chronic pain – the need for teamwork and listening to people with lived experience

A recently published report from a workshop organised by Versus Arthritis, Academy of Medical Sciences, the British Neuroscience Association, and the Physiological Society highlighted that people with lived experience of chronic pain should be at the heart of research partnerships to tackle the common and complex challenge of chronic pain.

The recently published report from this workshop is available from the Academy of Medical Sciences.

IKC guide to MedTech Research Translation

The Medical Technologies Innovation and Knowledge Centre (IKC) recently launched an online guide to MedTech research translation for academics and researchers based in UK universities.

The guide gives an overview of the MedTech innovation pathway, and case studies of successful translation to provide researchers with practical advice and information to navigate the complex innovation pathway from bench to bedside.

Researchers can work through this free resource from beginning to end or access relevant chapters to suit their requirements.

An academic’s guide to medtech translation

Dates for the diary

Career Development Fellowships

Opening: April 2023, Deadline: July 2023, Funding decision: 2024.

MRF Call- Child and Adolescent Musculoskeletal Pain Research 2023

Fellowship opportunities for researchers in the field of child and adolescent musculoskeletal pain research

Versus Arthritis in partnership with the Medical Research Foundation are pleased to announce the launch of a call for two fellowship schemes in the field of child and adolescent musculoskeletal pain.

Deadline for submission: 12:00 Wednesday 5 April 2023

Versus Arthritis Annual Fellows Meeting

29-30th March 2023, Burleigh Court, Loughborough

ResearchFish Deadline 16th March.

We’d love to hear from you

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