The Bath Institute for Rheumatic Diseases (BIRD) has awarded Dr Sarah Tansley of the Royal National Hospital for Rheumatic Diseases (RNHRD) a two year BIRD Fellowship in our Department of Pharmacy & Pharmacology to explore Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis (JIA), with the aim of identifying which patients are most at risk of developing chronic eye inflammation which can lead to reduced vision.

Dr Sarah Tansley, Research Fellow in Rheumatology at the Bath based RNHRD, said: “I’m delighted to receive this support from BIRD. People often assume Arthritis only affects older people, however around 15,000 young people in the UK suffer from the juvenile form of this condition. JIA can lead to disabling joint disease, which can persist into adulthood.

"In around one in three cases JIA may also lead to chronic eye inflammation, with the risk of permanent visual impairment.”

Dr Tansley, winner of the Doris Hillier BMA Research Grant in 2012 will conduct her research with Professor Neil McHugh, at the University's Department of Pharmacy & Pharmacology, whose research has been classified as world-leading or internationally excellent by the independent Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014.

This fellowship gives Dr Tansley the opportunity to build on her earlier research to identify which sufferers of JIA are most at risk of developing sight threatening eye disease. This will help in the monitoring of children with JIA, allowing earlier treatment and hopefully preventing loss of sight.

Ali Taylor, Executive Director of BIRD, stated: “We are really pleased to be able to award this fellowship to Dr Tansley. We believe it will lead to improvements in the treatment of patients with this painful and disabling disease. Our independent, Bath-based charity funds research into bone and joint diseases to improve treatments for patients and we welcome the contribution Dr Tansley continues to make in this field.”

Dr Tansley’s research will form part of a longer-term project based across several children’s hospitals around the country. The £90,000 award is the first award of this size made by BIRD, which is expanding its award giving activities.