3 December 2018

ReumaNederland awards title of Research Centre of Excellence to research group

Half a million euros for research into vaccine against inflammatory rheumatism

From left to right: Professor Dr Wouter Dhert (Dean of the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine), Professor Dr Femke Broere, Professor Dr Willem van Eden, Ingrid Lether (manager of Research & Innovation ReumaNederland)

Professor Dr Willem van Eden and Professor Dr Femke Broere of the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine of Utrecht University are hard at work developing a vaccine against rheumatoid arthritis (RA). They do this in collaboration with researchers from University Medical Center Utrecht, including Professor Dr Jaap van Laar. For the next five years, ReumaNederland provides 500.000 euros to make this research possible. Professor Dr Willem van Eden's research group is also awarded the title of Research Centre of Excellence by ReumaNederland.

With the Research Centres of Excellence that are ahead of the curve in research into inflammatory rheumatism, ReumaNederland wants to make big breakthroughs in the treatment of people who have inflammatory rheumatism. In the upcoming period, more research groups for inflammatory rheumatism, arthrosis and juvenile arthritis in the Netherlands will receive the recognition of being declared Research Centres of Excellence. ReumaNederland provides a total of 7.3 million euros for these Research Centres.

Breakthroughs to improve living with inflammatory rheumatism

The research into and treatment of inflammatory rheumatism has advanced greatly in the past years, but damaged joints are still a frequent consequence of the disease. Not a single form of inflammatory rheumatism can currently be cured. Current treatments merely suppress only a part of the symptoms and barely affect symptoms such as extreme fatigue and pain.

We are developing a vaccine that ‘re-educates’ the immune system to stop damaging the body's own joint tissues, as is the case with RA patients.
Professor Dr Willem van Eden, immunologist and doctor-microbiologist

Professor Dr Willem van Eden, research leader at the Research Centre of Excellence of Utrecht University: “With diseases such as RA, we strive to cure the patient permanently without additional medication. That is our challenge as immunologists. We are developing a vaccine that ‘re-educates’ the immune system to stop damaging the body's own joint tissues, as is the case with RA patients. If transplants are involved, you also have to make sure that the body doesn't damage the new tissue. Thanks to the great support of ReumaNederland, our research group can now face this challenge.”

Lodewijk Ridderbos, director of ReumaNederland: “We don't settle for our current position. We expect that the research group led by Professor Dr Willem van Eden and Professor Dr Femke Broere will provide pioneering solutions in the treatment of patients of inflammatory rheumatism in the upcoming years. The ability to re-educate the immune system with a vaccine that stops inflammations and prevents damage to joints is something we didn't think was possible until recently. Now, ReumaNederland wants to do everything it can to make that a reality.”

On inflammatory rheumatism

Inflammatory rheumatism is an umbrella term for various auto-immune diseases that cause serious damage to joints, muscles and internal organs. The immune system makes a mistake in fighting inflammatory rheumatism: healthy joints, muscles and internal organs are wrongfully attacked. The immune response also gets out of hand: the inflammations keep increasing, with disastrous results. Serious fatigue and pain, big trouble moving and serious limitations – at home, at school and at work – are symptoms experienced by all people with inflammatory rheumatism. In the Netherlands, 220,000 people have a form of inflammatory rheumatism.

RA- reporter Willem visits Willem van Eden and Femke Broere