Historical Research

The Arthritis Foundation has made investments in research that have led to many breakthrough treatments. Over our 70-year history, the Foundation has placed patients behind discoveries that are, today, mainstays of treatment in the Arthritis community. With the launch of our four new scientific initiatives in 2017, we continue to work using research to find cures and improve care, guided by a commitment to working with patients to develop our programs.

Arthritis Foundation Research Timeline

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From our first awarded grant in 1949 through the launch of our four innovative scientific initiatives in 2017, our researchers have contributed to the development of treatments that make a difference. In addition, the tireless work of our advocates has led to increases in federal funding of rheumatology research through National Institutes of Health (NIH) and Department of Defense (DOD) that have proven complementary to our own research program.

Collaboration with NIH, DOD, and other partner organizations has proven to be a powerful tool in our journey to conquer arthritis. Together, we move closer to finding cures for the many forms of arthritis. Here are a few highlights of what has been accomplished through Arthritis Foundation funding and patient involvement. 

  • The guidance of an astute mother, Polly Murray, brought Lyme disease to the attention of the Arthritis Foundation and scientists when she recognized an abnormal amount of pediatric arthritis in her community, including her son. Without this patient involvement, the discoveries that led to better understanding and treatments for this disease may have taken longer.
    In the mid-1970s, Lyme disease was recognized as a distinct disease when a cluster of cases originally thought to be juvenile rheumatoid arthritis was identified in three towns in Connecticut. Two of the towns, Lyme and Old Lyme, gave the disease its name. The ensuing work, funded through the Arthritis Foundation, led to recognition of infectious nature of the disease.
  • In the 1980s, the AF was behind the earliest clinical trials that set the stage for methotrexate to become a main stray of treatment for Rheumatoid Arthritis.   
  • Only a handful of foundations can draw a direct connection between their work and FDA approved therapies.
    Using his foundation research grant in the early 1980s, Dr. Bill Arend studied the role of IL-1 in RA – which ushered in the biologic era that led to the development of etanercept (Enbrel), Kineret, and Cosentyx. These biologics owe their inventions to milestone discoveries funded by the Arthritis Foundation.