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The Kennedy Institute is conducting ground-breaking research into the molecular pathways of osteoarthritis (OA) as part a consortium with academic, industry and charity partners.

Scientists working in the lab

The collaboration will see the Kennedy researchers, led by Tonia Vincent, working with academics from Nottingham, Manchester, Cambridge, Lund, and Toronto; charity partners (Kennedy Trust for Rheumatology Research and Versus Arthritis); and industry partners SomaLogic, Nordic Bioscience, Samumed, Fidia, and Galapagos. Together they will explore whether there are different types of OA that determine patient symptoms and longer-term outcomes. 

OA is a huge unmet need with an estimated 8.5 million people affected in the UK. It is regarded as a highly heterogeneous disease and is purported to exist in different forms. However, there is currently no molecular evidence to support these different types of disease, despite only 30% of patients with moderate stage disease progressing over a 3-year period. 

Professor Vincent said: “If we were able to identify those that were going to progress, we could enrich recruitment to clinical trials, increasing their chance of success and greatly reducing costs to industry. Moreover, identifying subsets of patients with particular molecular drivers may help identify specific treatments with improved effectiveness”

The STEpUP OA collaboration will measure protein signatures in the synovial fluid of 2000 patients taken from multiple early and late OA cohorts. This academic-industry partnership will use machine learning approaches to confirm whether multiple distinct molecular endotypes exist in disease or whether OA is “one disease” at the molecular level. 

“This is the largest, most comprehensive and agnostic analysis of its sort which would not be possible without substantial support from our partners. It promises to deliver molecular insights into disease that will have tangible future patient benefit.”

Pierre Espinasse, CEO, Kennedy Trust said: “STEpUP OA is a truly innovative scheme that will enable protein analysis from OA patients on an unprecedented scale. We are hopeful that the results of this study will have a wide-reaching impact on the whole of the OA community. The Trust is delighted to provide its support to Professor Vincent and her team.”