EULAR unveils flagship virtual research centre

The European League Against Rheumatism (EULAR) leadership used the forum of a virtual meeting to launch its Virtual EULAR Research Centre which will provide answers to the challenges and  questions raised by its RheumaMap initiative.

EULAR President Professor Iain McInnes, director of the Institute of Infection, Immunity and Inflammation at the University of Glasgow, Scotland, said the centre is aiming to be up and running within one to two years.

“The EULAR Virtual Research Centre … is a combination of basic research and translational science. ..its focus is to improve the lives of people with rheumatic and musculoskeletal diseases,” he told delegates attending the virtual meeting.

“The idea of a single researcher, sitting in a single laboratory or office designing an unusual clinical trial is actually an antiquated view of the way research is done.

By looking forward in the coming years and decades, the key piece is going to be putting numerous minds together that ask the most important questions, and together share their expertise so that we can find appropriate answers and interventions that will make a difference for people with disease. This is what the research centre will support.”

The need for the centre, he suggested, is obvious. “Rheumatic and musculoskeletal disease affects large numbers of people across Europe, and indeed across the globe. They are the commonest cause of disability and an enormous cost in quality of life. The diseases place enormous burdens on the individuals and their families, on society and on the health care system.”

Professor McInnes said the concept of the Virtual Research Centre had its origins in the EULAR RheumaMap initiative. “This was a road map of key questions and challenges facing people with rheumatic and musculoskeletal diseases and setting out the research needs of our community,” he said.

“That brought some traction to the idea that in addition to the great challenges brought by cancer, heart disease and infectious diseases, rheumatic and musculoskeletal diseases are an important problem and something that merits our attention.

“As part of our response to this imperative we are going to use the RheumaMap going forward as our guide and we are creating a centre that is capable of delivering high quality interdisciplinary research into the whole range of disorders – more than 200 disorders that cause musculoskeletal disability,” he said.

“We are a work in progress,” he said. “We expect to be fully active in 1 to 2 years, but really our journey has started. We have already begun work on COVID which is an example of the integrated capabilities of rheumatology investigators across the continent.

“We are going to provide, for example, the EULAR Consultation Service,” Professor McInnes said.

“We are going to make sure that research protocols, clinical trials, investigations, registries, when created, are done so with meticulous methodology care to make sure that when we are doing research we are expending either donated money or government funded projects that the work is done to the highest possible quality and therefore is most likely to deliver the answers to the most important questions being addressed.

“We are going to share technology and the very best methodologies across Europe because that really matters in this digital age because no single individual will have access to all of the necessary equipment or the necessary analyses or the necessary software to answer these questions.”

While Europe-centric, Professor McInnes said the centre will be available worldwide. “I think that if we can bring collaborative science across Europe and indeed, outward looking to other collaborators in other parts of the world, we will be performing a tremendous service for society and especially for our patients”.

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