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The Kennedy Institute joined a Roche-coordinated research network to better understand the role of fibroblasts in Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) and ultimately develop treatments that target its underlying causes

Chris Buckley talking to 2 people

The Roche Fibroblast Network brings together an international group of academic partners from Oxford, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston, and the Institute of Inflammation and Ageing Birmingham to build on previous evidence that the stromal compartment plays a pathological role in immune-mediated inflammatory diseases.

The common objective of the consortium was to establish a clear understanding of the biology and significance of fibroblast heterogeneity across tissues and diseases and to define common fibroblast-traits which can be used as therapeutics targets and biomarkers to drive the development of new treatments.

“In order to target fibroblasts therapeutically, we need to understand their subsets, and how these subsets change in health and IBD. By providing access to IBD patient cohorts and our expertise on intestinal inflammation our team at the KIR was able to identify a new subset of inflammatory fibroblasts that predict non-response to therapies in IBD in a subset of patient characterised by deep ulcers,” said Mathilde Pohin, Postdoctoral Researcher Scientist at the Kennedy Institute. 

Kara Lassen, Global Head, Immunology Discovery at Roche commented: “The objective of this consortium was to bring together experts across academia and industry to accelerate our understanding of stromal cells in inflammatory diseases. These exciting results highlight the strength of these collaborations and we hope to use these findings to develop novel therapies for patients in the future.”

“The role of fibroblasts in chronic inflammatory disease has been overlooked,” said Professor Fiona Powrie, Director of the Kennedy Institute.  “This consortium brings together scientists and clinicians working across immune mediated inflammatory diseases to identify common and unique pathways through which fibroblasts in different tissues promote inflammation. The results will help identify new therapeutic targets and allow the repurposing of drugs across different diseases.”

Chris Buckley, Kennedy Professor of Translational Rheumatology, who works at both the University of Oxford and Birmingham added: “Collaboration is the future. This consortium is a terrific example of how academics working in Universities, our clinical colleagues and patient partners have joined forces with researchers in the pharmaceutical sector to help answer a critical question: ‘are there a set of universal fibroblasts that are found in inflamed human tissues?’ The fact that the answer turns out to be yes has important implications for the development of new drugs that might work across a range of inflammatory diseases rather than just in one.”