Faculty of Medical Sciences

Staff Profile

Professor John Isaacs

Institute Director


My team’s work is focussed in two major areas:

·         The development and testing of novel immunotherapies for rheumatoid arthritis, with a particular interest in therapeutic tolerance induction.

·         The immunopathogenesis of rheumatoid arthritis

Major current therapeutic projects include the development of an autologous tolerogenic dendritic cell therapy for rheumatoid arthritis (AUTODECRA, funded by Arthritis Research UK) in partnership with Dr Catharien Hilkens; and a phase I study of an aglycosyl, non-mitogenic anti-CD3 monoclonal antibody in rheumatoid arthritis (jointly funded by Arthritis Research UK and GSK).

Therapeutic  tolerance induction remains a ‘holy grail’ for human autoimmunity although recently completed studies in type 1 diabetes have been encouraging.  A major limitation is a lack of understanding of the immune dysregulation inherent in rheumatoid arthritis, and consequent lack of ‘tolerance biomarkers’, that are required to monitor attempts at therapeutic tolerance induction. This is one of the key aims of the MRC/ABPI Immunology and Inflammation Initiative for inflammatory arthritis, for which Newcastle is the lead academic centre.

Other recently completed work from our group has identified a potential transcriptional biomarker for the early diagnosis of seronegative rheumatoid arthritis. Interestingly, that work implicates interleukin-6 and downstream STAT-3 signalling in the early stages of clinical disease, suggesting potential therapeutic targets.

All of our work is supported by cutting edge facilities, including the state-of-the art Wilson Horne Immunotherapy Centre, a clinical research facility dedicated to the investigation of novel immunotherapies which incorporates arthroscopy, high resolution ultrasound scanning, extremity MRI and a sample processing laboratory. We are a member of the NOCRI Translational Research Partnership (JDI is academic lead).  All of our research is supported by an enthusiastic team of scientists and rheumatologists who comprise the Musculoskeletal Research Group.  In addition to our internationally recognised basic and translational laboratory research, we also have a broad clinical and educational research portfolio, recruiting highly to NIHR Research Portfolio studies.


Local roles:

Professor of Clinical Rheumatology

Honorary consultant rheumatologist, Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

Director, Wilson Horne Immunotherapy Centre

Director Musculoskeletal Theme, NIHR BRC in Ageing and Chronic Disease

Academic director, Musculoskeletal Directorate, Newcastle upon Tyne NHS Foundation Trust


National roles:

Chairman, Arthritis Research UK Clinical Study Group for Inflammatory Arthritis

Academic lead, MRC/ABPI Immunology and Inflammation Initiative for Inflammatory Joint Disease

Musculoskeletal Director, Northumberland, Tyne & Wear CLRN

Chairman, NOCRI Translational Research Partnership

Member, MHRA Expert Advisory Group for Clinical Trials; and Expert Advisory Group for Gastroenterology, Rheumatology, Immuology and Dermatology

Member, MRC Translational Research Group


Research Interests

Immunotherapy of rheumatic, autoimmune disease. I have a long-standing interest
Clinical therapeutic tolerance.
Pathogenesis of rheumatoid arthritis.
Genetics and pharmacogenetics of rheumatoid arthritis.