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BMH scientist awarded first multi-million pound Kennedy Trust Senior Fellowship

06 Jun 2017

An inflammation researcher from the School of Biological Sciences is set to establish a world-class research programme that aims to shed new light on rheumatoid arthritis, after becoming the first ever recipient of a £2.5 million Kennedy Trust award for rheumatic disease research.

Dr John Grainger

Established in 1966, The Kennedy Trust for Rheumatology Research is a charity best-known for its support of the ground-breaking work by Professors Marc Feldmann and Ravinder Maini on identifying TNF (tumour necrosis factor) as a therapeutic target for inflammatory diseases.

Most of its current funding is focussed on supporting the Kennedy Institute of Rheumatology at the University of Oxford. Now, for the first time in its history, the Trust decided to broaden its funding to other institutions by launching a new Kennedy Trust Senior Fellowship scheme.

A panel of international experts appointed by the Trust reviewed applications from 15 of the UK's top universities and Dr John Grainger, based at the Manchester Collaborative Centre for Inflammation Research (MCCIR) was selected as the first awardee. 

A major focus of the award is to understand how two of our most important bodily systems, the immune system and the nervous system, work together to programme the actions of one cell-type; the macrophage. Dr Grainger will be working with the Centre for Musculoskeletal Research and NIHR Manchester Biomedical Research Centre, using blood and joint samples provided by patients from The Central Manchester University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. John's research will unravel the complex communication between macrophages and pathways previously attributed to the nervous system, to identify novel therapeutic opportunities.

Dr Grainger said: "It is really a superb opportunity for me, The University of Manchester and The Kennedy Trust to diversify our efforts to understand rheumatoid arthritis. This award allows me to take risks and employ my basic immunology expertise in an area of cutting-edge translational science that has the potential to make a difference to patients' lives."

Describing the unique opportunities The University of Manchester provides for Dr Grainger’s research the Head of the School of Biological Sciences, Professor Jane Worthington, said: "We are thrilled that John's excellent career to date has been rewarded in this manner. We are committed to developing the next generation of world-class research academics. Immunology and musculoskeletal sciences are priority areas for the University and so an award that unites the two is particularly exciting."

Professor Hill Gaston, Chair of the Kennedy Trust’s Scientific Committee, commented: "Dr Grainger's proposal, selected from an extremely strong field, is ground-breaking and innovative and we are delighted to be able to support his work in this way."