Feldmann, from the Kennedy Institute of Rheumatology at Imperial College London, discovered that the key to autoimmune diseases lay in molecules responsible for cell communication, known as cytokines. Cytokines are normally released by diseased cells for the purpose of alerting the immune system to initiate a counter-response. Feldmann discovered that in autoimmune diseases, highly increased cytokine counts also exist around otherwise healthy cells. This explained the body's aggressive reaction in areas of arthritic inflammation around patients' joints.

In 1991, Professor Feldmann and his colleagues found that all the different cytokines could be stopped by blocking one kind, Tumour Necrosis Factor (TNF)a. In 1992, the first series of successful trials were run with rheumatoid arthritis patients at the Kennedy Institute. The improvements in patients' health were so dramatic that the nurses could identify by mere sight which patients had been given a placebo and which had received TNFa blockers.

Since the method was patented in 1995, TNFa inhibitors have become the therapy of choice for stopping the inflammatory and tissue-destructive pathways of rheumatoid arthritis and other autoimmune diseases.

This is the second time that outstanding inventors were honoured with the European Inventor of the Year award, which is instituted by the EU Commission and European Patent Office (EPO). The awards recognise innovators and innovations that have made a significant and lasting contribution to technical development in Europe and beyond, and thus strengthened Europe's economic position. The finalists were selected by an independent high-profile international jury.

MEDICA.de; Source: Imperial College London