NEWS | July 11, 2012

UC Davis scientist receives a $1.5 million grant for rheumatoid arthritis research


UC Davis researcher Iannis Adamopoulos has received a $1.5 million grant from the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases to study the causes of rheumatoid arthritis -- a chronic disease that affects people of all ages and leads to permanent bone and joint damage.

Adamopoulos began investigating inflammation and arthritis at Oxford University, where he studied interactions of the immune and skeletal systems in the progression of the disease. His research currently focuses on cells known as osteoclasts and their role in triggering cellular and molecular events that lead to bone destruction.

Iannis Adamopoulos © UC Regents
Iannis Adamopoulos

Adamopoulos, an assistant professor in the UC Davis Department of Internal Medicine and researcher with the Northern California Institute for Pediatric Regenerative Medicine at Shriners Hospitals for Children - Northern California, will use the new funding to further define the effects of osteoclasts in the onset of arthritis and to identify therapeutics that block that process.

"We've made a lot of progress in arthritis treatment in the last decade, but there are still millions of patients who are not helped by those advances," said Timothy Albertson, chair of the UC Davis Department of Internal Medicine. "Dr. Adamopoulos' innovative thinking could lessen the pain and disability associated with arthritis and also has the potential to reduce the disease process."

Adamopoulos was recruited to UC Davis in 2010 from the DNAX Research Institute, a division of Schering-Plough (currently Merck) in Palo Alto, Calif., where he discovered that the abnormal expression of a cytokine known as interleukin 23 (IL-23) activates osteoclast activity that causes severe arthritis and bone loss in mice. He has since confirmed that finding in human cells. His next step is to determine the potential of IL-23 inhibitors in arthritis treatment.

Adamopoulos was recognized in 2011 as an Arthritis National Research Foundation Scholar and Sontag Foundation Fellow, honors reserved for promising, early-career arthritis investigators. His findings were recently presented at the International Conference on Osteoimmunology in Corfu, Greece, and have been published in the Journal of Immunology, Journal of Experimental Medicine and Arthritis and Rheumatism. He serves as a reviewer for leading journals in rheumatology, as well as on the scientific advisory boards of biotechnology companies.

The new NIH funding (grant number R01-AR062173-01) will support Adamopoulos' research for four years.

The National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, one of the National Institutes of Health, supports research, training and information dissemination related to diseases of bones, muscles, skin and autoimmunity -- all have major influences on the quality of people's lives and many disproportionately affect women and minorities. For more information, visit 

The UC Davis School of Medicine is among the nation's leading medical schools, recognized for its research and primary-care programs. The school offers fully accredited master's degree programs in public health and in informatics, and its combined M.D.-Ph.D. program is training the next generation of physician-scientists to conduct high-impact research and translate discoveries into better clinical care. Along with being a recognized leader in medical research, the school is committed to serving underserved communities and advancing rural health. For more information, visit