Fighting autoimmune diseases

Your immune system is there to help fight off infections and keep you illness-free. But, sometimes your immune system overreacts, producing too much of a certain substance. In the case of Crohn’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis and ulcerative colitis, it’s a protein known as TNF-alpha.

TNF-alpha is an immune system protein that’s useful in fighting off infections, but people with certain autoimmune conditions produce too much of it. When a person has excess TNF-alpha, it leads to inflammation - systemic inflammation, like in the joints and intestines.

Humira, also known as Adalimumab, was discovered and developed in Cambridge, by Cambridge Antibody Technology and BASF. Originally known as D2E7 - catchy, right? - Humira would go on to provide relief from the daily symptoms of some of the most common, and painful conditions of the western world.

Humira autoimmune

How does Humira work on the immune system?

As we mentioned, the immune system produces - amongst others - a protein known a TNF-alpha, or Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha, which is an important infection-fighter, but which in excess, can lead to chronic inflammation.

Chronic inflammation and overproduction of TNF-a are partly what’s responsible for:

  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Psoriatic arthritis
  • Ankylosing Spondylitis
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Ulcerative colitis
  • Plaque psoriasis, and
  • Juvenile idiopathic arthritis

Humira is a TNF-a blocker, which means it binds to TNF-a and prevents it from causing inflammation. There can be some downsides, associated with having less of the useful TNF-a in your immune system, but for those suffering from the conditions Humira is designed to treat, the relief is often a welcome respite.

What’s Cambridge’s link to Humira?

Cambridge Antibody Technology was an incredibly successful biotechnology company, founded in Cambridge vin 1989. It was bought by AstraZeneca in 2006, but until then, was listed on the London Stock Exchange as a multi-million pound company.

According to the British Society of Rheumatology, around “10 million people in the UK” have some kind of arthritis, and the NHS estimates that “at least 115,000” people have Crohn’s disease.

This is testament to Cambridge’s ability to produce world-class medical research centres, and whilst CAT no longer exists in its original form, what it produced in Humira - which stands for Human Monoclonal Antibody In Rheumatoid Arthritis - is something which today is improving the lives of millions of people.

How many millions of people?

According to the British Society of Rheumatology, around “10 million people in the UK” have some kind of arthritis, and the NHS estimates that “at least 115,000” people have Crohn’s disease.

Around 146,000 people are estimated to have ulcerative colitis, and approximately 1.8 million have a form of psoriasis.

For these people, an effective treatment can return a quality of life lost to the daily pain and discomfort of their condition. Another incredibly worthwhile contribution, from the heart of Cambridge.

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