Princess Royal to open Kennedy Institute of Rheumatology at the University of Oxford

25 September 2014

HRH The Princess Royal is to open the new Kennedy Institute for Rheumatology building on the University of Oxford’s Old Road Campus on Thursday 25 September 2014.

The institute’s research focuses on the causes and treatment of arthritis and other inflammatory diseases that affect many millions of people around the world.

Her Royal Highness will be given a tour of the new research facility, learn about the institute’s past successes and current research, and unveil a plaque.

She will hear about what is known about the causes of arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, psoriasis and other inflammatory diseases. She will see cells imaged in unprecedented detail using new types of microscope as part of research that can give insight into immune responses in arthritis. And she will see the latest research on what can trigger osteoarthritis and approaches that might prevent or cure the condition.

Her Royal Highness will be met by the Chancellor of Oxford University, Lord Patten of Barnes, and James Davis, Chairman of The Kennedy Trust for Rheumatology Research. The tour of the facility will be led by Professor Sir Marc Feldmann, the current director of the institute, and Professor Fiona Powrie, who will take up the reins on 1 October.

The Kennedy Institute joined the University of Oxford in 2011, and construction of its new building on the Old Road Campus site was completed last year. The costs of constructing and equipping the building have been met by the University of Oxford and the Kennedy Trust. The purpose-built labs offer a state of the art home for scientists developing new treatments and studying the possible causes, mechanisms and biological pathways underlying arthritis and other inflammatory diseases.

The Kennedy Institute is recognised worldwide for the discovery, by Sir Marc Feldmann and Sir Ravinder Maini, of an antibody-based treatment, or 'anti-TNF' therapy, for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis and other inflammatory diseases. Since the first anti-TNF treatments were licensed at the end of the 1990s, millions of people with rheumatoid arthritis around the world have benefited from the therapies, transforming the lives of many patients.

Anti-TNF therapy works rapidly in most patients with rheumatoid arthritis to reduce pain, improve mobility, reduce joint swelling and boost quality of life. And in comparison to conventional drugs, it reduces the risk of heart attacks, strokes and increases life expectancy. It has a major role in protecting joints from degeneration, reducing the need for joint surgery. Anti-TNF drugs are now the biggest selling class of drug worldwide.

Now part of Oxford University's Nuffield Department of Orthopaedics, Rheumatology and Musculoskeletal Sciences, the Kennedy Institute can join its world-leading expertise in inflammation to other University research in immunology and orthopaedic surgery. Its work also benefits from being in close proximity to the Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre, part of the Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust.

The institute’s research will continue to be strongly supported by The Kennedy Trust for Rheumatology Research.

Professor Sir Marc Feldmann, director of the Kennedy Institute, says: ‘We’re delighted to welcome The Princess Royal to Oxford to open the new Kennedy Institute building. I look forward very much to introducing her to the many scientists here who are working to develop new and improved treatments for arthritis, a disease which causes such a burden of pain and discomfort for so many millions of people in this country.’

Professor Fiona Powrie will become the new director of the Institute in October and her research looks at the body’s immune system, how it keeps the right balance of bacteria in our gut, and how it goes wrong in inflammatory bowel disease. She adds: ‘The Kennedy Institute has an incredible track record in both understanding the causes of inflammation and developing novel treatments that can help many patients. The discovery of anti-TNF drugs was a remarkable advance that has changed the way rheumatoid arthritis is treated. It’s terrific to be able to celebrate these successes with the visit of The Princess Royal. And with a new building at Oxford University that really provides the equipment and environment to conduct the best science, we can look forward to many more discoveries in the future.’

James Davis, Chairman of The Kennedy Trust for Rheumatology Research, said: ‘The Trust’s financial commitment to the Institute reflects its mission to support research into rheumatoid and other chronic inflammatory diseases. In this wonderful new building, the Institute will go from strength to strength as a world class centre for medical research.’

For more information please contact the University of Oxford news & information office on +44 (0)1865 280530 or

Notes to editors:

  • Arthritis is a common condition that causes pain and inflammation in a joint. In the UK, around 10 million people have arthritis. Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis in the UK, affecting around 8 million people. Rheumatoid arthritis is estimated to affect more than 400,000 people.
  • The Kennedy Institute of Rheumatology was formed in 1965 with a donation by Terence and Mathilda Kennedy, becoming the first research institute in the world entirely dedicated to rheumatology. It moved from its original site in next to the West London Hospital in Hammersmith to Charing Cross Hospital in 1997. In 2000, the Institute was incorporated into Imperial College before transferring to the University of Oxford in August 2011. It continues to be supported by The Kennedy Trust for Rheumatology Research and also receives grants from many funding sources, including the Medical Research Council, the Wellcome Trust, the European Union and Arthritis Research UK.
  • Oxford University’s Medical Sciences Division is one of the largest biomedical research centres in Europe, with over 2,500 people involved in research and more than 2,800 students. The University is rated the best in the world for medicine, and it is home to the UK’s top-ranked medical school. From the genetic and molecular basis of disease to the latest advances in neuroscience, Oxford is at the forefront of medical research. It has one of the largest clinical trial portfolios in the UK and great expertise in taking discoveries from the lab into the clinic. Partnerships with the local NHS Trusts enable patients to benefit from close links between medical research and healthcare delivery. A great strength of Oxford medicine is its long-standing network of clinical research units in Asia and Africa, enabling world-leading research on the most pressing global health challenges such as malaria, TB, HIV/AIDS and flu. Oxford is also renowned for its large-scale studies which examine the role of factors such as smoking, alcohol and diet on cancer, heart disease and other conditions.