From Ancient Egypt to Cutting Edge Innovation

By Micki Klearman, M.D., Associate Group Medical Director, Research and Development

For over 20 years I was a clinical rheumatologist at Washington University Medical Center in St. Louis, Missouri.  I saw first-hand the devastating effects that autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis (RA), can have – both on the person suffering from the disease, as well as their family members.  Today I work within clinical research and development at Roche to investigate potential treatments that one day, I hope, will lead to a cure.

Egyptian medical books have been found that reference swollen, painful joints.  But RA, like many other autoimmune diseases, is still not fully understood!  However, over the course of the past couple of decades, the increase in the scientific understanding behind the biology of the disease has been remarkable.  Relieving the symptoms – pain, swelling, tenderness or redness – was the main focus of many early treatments.

Today, physicians can choose from different medicines that actually treat the underlying cause of the disease or target very specific immune pathways believed to be important in the progression of RA.

In clinical research we get excited about the big ‘eureka’ moment, but sometimes it’s the incremental steps and small innovations that make the most tangible difference to patients living with these debilitating diseases.   Insights into the mechanisms that cause and drive RA have meant we can also help people who have other autoimmune disease – for example, at Roche we are investigating rare diseases such as systemic sclerosis and giant cell arteritis.  I’m both proud and excited to know that by following the science we are changing outcomes for the next generation of people with these conditions.

Tags: Immunology, Science