Fight or Fight.... Strengthening Immunology in the UK

Hundreds of thousands of people in the UK are living with diseases linked to the immune system[i]. While research has led to scientific breakthroughs and new treatments, many people are still unable to lead fulfilled and active lives because of these conditions. AbbVie’s
Phil Schwab, Director of Government Affairs, talks more on how we’re working  with our partners to shape the #FutureOfImmunology in the UK.  

Over 80 types of diseases linked to the immune system[ii]. Common conditions include Crohn’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis and MS, but as research progresses, we’re discovering more and more existing conditions have links to the immune system, for example some types of asthma and cancer. Scientific research plays such a vital role in understanding and managing these conditions but we need to do more to ensure these discoveries continue. This is why we are partnering with the British Society for Immunology, the UK Bio Industry Association, and the National Rheumatoid Arthritis to create a vision for the future of Immunology in the UK.


For over 70 years the UK’s academic institutions and its life sciences industry have proudly led the field in immunological research. This has resulted in scientific breakthroughs in the understanding and management of immune-mediated inflammatory diseases. For example, in 1980 the world’s first immunosuppressant drug, Ciclosporin was used for an organ transplant and in1993 the first successful clinical use of anti-TNF was used to treat rheumatoid
arthritis[iii]. Advances such as these have helped thousands of people in the UK and millions worldwide affected by these conditions to improve their quality of life. However, there is no room for complacency, while progress has been made, many people who have these conditions are in pain and cannot led the lives they wish to lead.

Earlier this month, I had the privilege of attending the launch event
for the Future of Immunology vision at the House of Commons, London, which was led by Melanie Onn MP. Melanie chairs the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) and during her opening address Melanie praised the fantastic work of patient groups, campaigners and parliamentary colleagues in driving improvements in services for people living with IBD. However, she also highlighted the need for continued investment in immunology diseases in order to address unmet need and so the UK can continue
to be at the centre of pioneering research. The event also called for policymakers to increase funding for immunology research, especially in areas of immune-mediated inflammatory diseases, in line with the Government’s 2.4% 

#Advancing Together

The joint vision for the future of immunology sets out to further understanding of the underlying causes and characteristics of the disease, and explore new approaches to help us better support affected patients to lead more active and fulfilled lives.  We have set out four calls to action which are:

1.       Continuing Research investment: We want to increase funding for research, maintain access to high level research and clinicians, maximise the research potential of our unique NHS and strengthen relationships across all key partners to find new and exciting ways to advance existing understanding in this area.

2.        Improving patient experience and addressing the unmet need of people living with immune-mediated diseases: We want to develop a better understanding of the underlying causes and characteristics of the disease and explore new approaches to diagnosis and management of these conditions in order to improve patient experience

3.        Timely diagnosis: We want to ensure that we develop and invest in clinical and nursing workforce to ensure it is equipped to provide people affected with the access and support they need.

4.        Patient access to innovation: We seek to accelerate the introduction of new advances in treatment so that patients are able to benefit at the earliest opportunity and can live their lives less affected by their disease.

[1] British Society of Immunology, Autoimmunity, available
at Last accessed: October 2018

[2] Multiple Sclerosis Trust, Immune System, available at Last accessed: October 2018

[3] The Future of Immunology (2018). Shaping the future of immunological research in the UK together, Booklet available upon request.