A Researcher Joins the Mission to Make a Difference  

Dr. Jason Kim left the lab to fill a gap — working as a liaison to bring together patients, scientists and health care providers to improve arthritis treatments.  

By Allison Wilcosky | May 3, 2024

Dr. Jason KimIt was mice that ultimately led Jason Kim, PhD, to the Arthritis Foundation. 

“During grad school, I did work in arthritis research,” he explains. “Our lab developed a nanoparticle that would be taken up by cells active in inflammation, such as in a mouse model of rheumatoid arthritis. I didn’t think there was much of a future for me in arthritic mice,” Jason says, smiling. Jason developed medical products from concept to commercial launch after receiving his PhD in inorganic chemistry from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and completing his post-doctoral training at the U.S. Naval Research Lab in Washington, D.C. He spent over 10 years making diagnostic tests for sickle cell disease, thyroid disorders, cardiac disease and cancer.  

Eventually, Jason joined the Arthritis Foundation team as vice president of Osteoarthritis Programs in 2020. His initial motivations for moving to the Arthritis Foundation was admiration and a need to connect the parties invested in improving arthritis treatments. 

“Prior to coming here, I was the chief science officer of a start-up in North Carolina making sickle cell diagnostics. Working in that disease community was my first exposure to working with nonprofit organizations — and patients, scientists and health care providers who are mission-driven. That gave me admiration of working with nonprofits and understanding that the space was filling this very unique and necessary gap.” 

Making Advances in OA Research 

In general, osteoarthritis (OA) research is a complicated area of study. “It’s a tough disease,” Jason says. “It can be a disease of aging that some people get faster, but most people get it more slowly over decades. A colleague of mine said, most people follow patients for two years so a disease needs to occur or progress pretty quickly for it to be easily studied. But OA can take 10, 20 years.” 

One of Jason’s first big tasks at the Foundation was getting the Osteoarthritis Clinical Trial Network (OA-CTN) off the ground, an assembly of the leading clinical investigators and research institutions developing infrastructure to accelerate scientific innovations in the patient community. 

“Us alone, we can’t do hundreds of clinical trials,” says Jason. “But we can chip in and help. We can create the infrastructure to make clinical trials in arthritis easier to encourage other people to join us.” 

In 2023, the Arthritis Foundation launched its first-ever clinical trial directed and sponsored by the Foundation, the Post-Injury Knee Arthritis Severity Outcomes (PIKASO) trial. PIKASO focuses on patients at high risk for post-traumatic osteoarthritis (PTOA) in the knee after anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) reconstruction utilizing the drug Metformin

“I felt like I came along and connected the truck to the trailer type of thing. It was always there, you know, and I just like jumped in the driver's seat,” Jason shares about his recent work with the Foundation. “I'm really happy that this is what I'm doing right now.  

“It would be amazing to show positive results within the PIKASO trial, but ultimately, we’re showing that the Arthritis Foundation can do a clinical trial,” says Jason. “It’s a unique trial that’s based on this off-patent drug that nobody else is working on. We have the top scientists in the U.S. on the team and they’ve done plenty of clinical trials themselves. We’ve started; we have to finish the job.” 
Do you live with OA? Explore the Osteoarthritis Patient Education & Resources site to learn more about OA and what to expect when you’re diagnosed, as well as treatments and how to conquer everyday challenges.
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