Musculoskeletal (MSK) conditions are the single most common cause of chronic disability, placing a huge burden on patients and society. Significant advances in the development of innovative treatments, including biologic therapies, have changed the opportunities available to patients. Our goal is to enable the right therapy to be delivered to the right patient at the right time, and thus improve patient outcomes further.

Clinical trials at our facility are helping to evaluate new therapies to treat MSK and autoimmune diseases more effectively, and – through collaboration with the Leeds MIC contributing to our ability to detect disease early so that, in the future, we can intervene with therapies to prevent progression as well.

The MSK trial programme at NIHR Leeds CRF builds on world-leading experimental translational research at the NIHR Leeds Biomedical Research Centre (BRC) and the Leeds Institute of Rheumatic and Musculoskeletal Medicine.

Research at NIHR Leeds BRC focuses on the identification and development of biomarkers through the accurate characterisation of disease using, in particular, strengths in novel imaging. NIHR Leeds BRC pioneered the use of joint ultrasound, enabling earlier diagnosis and confirmation of disease remission and uses magnetic resonance Imaging (MRI) to understand the pathophysiology of disease and effectiveness of therapies. NIHR Leeds BRC are also developing the use of optical coherence tomography (OCT), as a first quantitative imaging skin biomarker in conditions such as scleroderma and psoriasis.

Our Facility draws on expertise within NIHR Leeds BRC, particularly the use of novel imaging techniques, to deliver early phase and complex later stage clinical trials across the full range of MSK and autoimmune conditions. This includes conditions which affect the joints, such as osteoarthritis, inflammatory arthritis (including rheumatoid arthritis and spondyloarthritis), auto-immune multisystem conditions such as lupus, vasculitis, scleroderma and inflammatory skin disorders such as psoriasis and lupus.

We have developed strong links with the leading pharmaceutical companies, including Abbvie, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Pfizer Ltd, Roche, AstraZeneca and GlaxoSmithKline, working with them on early stage commercial and academic trials to test new drug treatments.

We also receive generous support from charities such as Versus ArthritisLupus UK and a local ACORN charity and are successful in gaining NIHR research funding.

Our research focus is early intervention and accurate phenotyping of disease, with significant emphasis on the development of clinical, imaging and blood/tissue cellular biomarkers in order to enable more effective prognostic and treatment decisions.

MSK and autoimmune diseases are also associated with increased cardiovascular health problems. We work closely with colleagues in cardiovascular medicine to understand this increased risk – conducting trials to, for example, understand how inflammation can also contribute to cardiovascular disease – and to assess what therapies might be most effective.