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 Tuesday, 31 December, 2002, 00:37 GMT
Arthritis pioneer honoured
Laboratory microscope
The laboratory work yielded a vital drug
A man whose research led to groundbreaking new drugs for arthritis has been knighted in the New Year Honours.

Professor Sir Ravinder Nath "Tiny" Maini, recently retired as director of the Kennedy Research Institute at Imperial College London, led a team of researchers over a 15-year period looking for new treatments for rheumatoid arthritis.

Their breakthrough, so-called "anti-TNF" drugs, were finally licensed only in the last two years.

Sir Ravinder's knighthood is one of three for leading figures in the medical or research community.

The trio are joined by a new Dame - the head of one of one of the country's leading nursing training schools.

This recognition is long overdue

Jane Tadman, Arthritis Research Campaign
In rheumatoid arthritis, the body's own immune system attacks tissues in the joints, causing inflammation, pain, and reduced mobility.

Sir Ravinder's team found that one of the leading agents in the process was a body chemical called tumour necrosis factor (TNF).

They found a way to stop this from working - and the pain and inflammation of severely affected patients was greatly reduced.

Jane Tadman, from the Arthritis Research Campaign, which funds his work, told BBC News Online: "This recognition is long overdue - this was a significant breakthrough in this field."

Another knighthood is awarded to Cambridge researcher Professor Alan Fersht, whose work delved into the previously little understood world of "protein-folding".

The shape of body chemicals called proteins affects how they work - or whether they work at all.

Prof Sir Maini
Professor Sir Ravinder Maini
If that protein is vital to preventing the survival of potentially cancerous cells, then understanding what has caused such a "misfold" is highly important.

In particular, Professor Fersht has been examining the protein of the P53 gene.

Most people who develop cancer have variations in the way their P53 protein behaves.

'World-leading'

A spokesman for Cancer Research UK, which funds some of Professor Fersht's work at the Centre for Protein Engineering in Cambridge, said the charity was "delighted".

"The team in Cambridge is truly world-leading - and this is such an important area.

"If we could understand how p53 works, then we could understand a great deal more about preventing and treating many types of cancer."

The other new medical knight is Professor Sir David Hall, the president of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health.

His area of expertise is in keeping a lookout for the spread and incidence of diseases of childhood.

He was chair of the Joint Working Parties on Child Health Surveillance, and also Founder and first Chair of the Children's sub-group of National Screening Committee, 1998-9.

Made a DBE in the honours is Professor Dame Jenifer Wilson-Barnett who is head of the Nightingale School of Nursing and Midwifery at King's College London.

CBEs include:

Professor Michael Clarke. Lately Professor of Epidemiology, University of Leicester (for services to public health medicine)

Miss Heather Margaret Gwynn. Task Force manager, Cancer and Coronary Heart Disease, Department of Health.

Professor Mary Bridget Hanratty. Head, Nursing and Midwifery Education, Beeches Management Centre.

Mrs Suzanne Hinchliffe. Director of Nursing, Barnsley NHS Trust (for services to Nursing).

Professor Trevor Jones, director general, Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry.

Thomas Lehner. Chair, Basic and Applied Immunology, University of London (for services to oral immunology and dental health.)

Peter Royston Male. Chief executive, Blackpool, Fylde and Wyre Hospitals NHS Trust.

Mary Christina McFarlane. Director, Nursing and Patient Care, Stoke Mandeville Hospital.

Professor David Raymond Owens. Director, Diabetes Research Unit, College of Medicine, University of Wales.

Professor Ray Powles. Head, Leukaemia and Myeloma Units, Royal Marsden Hospital.

Professor Trevor Powles. Consultant Medical Oncologist, Royal Marsden Hospital.

Professor James Reason (for services to reducing the risk in healthcare).

Professor Elisabeth Trimble. Professor of Clinical Biochemistry, Queen's University, Belfast.


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