Drug maker Novo Nordisk will partner with Oxford University in the UK to develop new treatments for rheumatoid arthritis and other inflammatory diseases.

Novo, the world’s largest producer of diabetes drugs hopes work with the university’s Kennedy Institute of Rheumatology will identify novel biomarkers and treatment targets for the condition.

Novo Nordisk senior vice president of biopharmaceutical research Per Falk commented on the partnership, "The overall ambition is to combine our company’s clinical development strengths with those of the Kennedy Institute to increase the odds that we can successfully develop novel treatment regimens and get them more quickly to the patients who could potentially benefit from them."

The Kennedy Institute of Rheumatology is renowned for its understanding of the biological pathways that lead to rheumatoid arthritis.

Professor Sir Marc Feldmann, head of the institute, together with his colleague Sir Ravinder Maini, has discovered the efficacy of anti-tumour necrosis factor or anti-TNF treatment, a class of drugs used as the current standard of care for moderate-to-severe rheumatoid arthritis and other autoimmune inflammatory diseases.

"As a translational research centre, we are keen to do clinical research on truly innovative ideas that have the potential to improve how patients with autoimmune inflammatory disease are treated today," said Feldmann, adding that despite advances, there is still an unmet need in this area, with many patients responding only partially to existing treatments.

"We will work closely together with Novo Nordisk to apply the most advanced translational research approaches available for discovering new mechanisms and validating drug targets and candidates in autoimmune inflammatory disease in a variety of human disease tissue types and at different stages of disease to ensure comprehensive characterisation of each compound’s clinical potential."

Novo Nordisk will fund ten Oxford researchers at the Kennedy Institute of Rheumatology to work within the partnership.