Alopecia UK has joined the Connect Immune Research initiative, alongside founding members JDRF, the MS Society, Versus Arthritis, and supporting partner the British Society for Immunology.

The Connect Immune Research initiative is a first-of-its-kind research charity partnership which aims to confront the UK's high prevalence of autoimmune conditions. 

Autoimmune conditions see the body’s immune system mistakenly attack healthy cells in the body.

An estimated four million people in the UK live with an autoimmune condition – equivalent to more than six per cent of the population.

This includes 400,000 people with type 1 diabetes, over 130,000 living with multiple sclerosis (MS), over 400,000 with rheumatoid arthritis and over 100,000 with alopecia areata – an autoimmune condition that causes hair to fall out.

The Connect Immune Research initiative brings together researchers from across these autoimmune conditions to uncover the common threads in their work – meaning greater efficiency and hopefully new treatments, faster.

As well as accelerating research into new treatments for millions of people, the approach could also dramatically reduce costs. As a result, member charities believe this innovative approach could be key to helping the medical research sector adapt to the impact of the COVID-19 crisis.

Professor Simon Milling, the Research Chair of Alopecia UK said:

“Alopecia Areata is a common autoimmune condition. Working with a community of researchers, in close contact with patient partners and research charities, we will share knowledge and accelerate progress to developing new and effective therapies. We have common problems at a scientific level, and in operating in a COVID-19-affected world. Together we can find solutions to these problems. We are delighted to be joining Connect Immune Research”.

Rachel Connor, Director of Research Partnerships at JDRF, said:

“People living with underlying health conditions are being hit hard. They’re often harder hit directly when contracting COVID-19. They have also often been harder hit by the impact of the pandemic upon public services. That’s why the fight against infectious disease must go hand-in-hand with the fight against long-term health conditions.”

Dr David Coutts, Senior Research Manager at the MS Society, said:

“We want autoimmunity to be recognised as a distinct area of research science, alongside the likes of cancer, infectious disease and dementia. By autoimmune charities working together in this way, we hope to speed up and bolster research so we can find a way of preventing these conditions. It’s fantastic that Alopecia UK have joined us in this initiative.”

Dr Craig Bullock, Research Discovery and Innovations Lead at Versus Arthritis, said:

“We’ve seen the impact that immunology research has had in the progress towards the COVID vaccines that are now becoming available. These achievements have been cemented through global collaboration with the research community, which is exactly the kind of partnership that Connect Immune Research is all about. With the addition of new members such as Alopecia UK, and the sharing of learning and resources, we will come much closer to the research breakthroughs that will be transformational for people with autoimmune conditions.”

Dr Doug Brown, Chief Executive of the British Society for Immunology, said:

“Immunology is a vital branch of medical science in which the UK leads the world with new discoveries. Connect Immune Research exploits this UK strength by bringing together the leading talents in immunology to study different autoimmune diseases together. This is an innovative approach to immunology research and will, with even more support, lead to us transforming the lives of people living with autoimmune conditions.”