Crohn's & Colitis Foundation Unveils New Five-Year Research Agenda

2019 Challenges in IBD Research outlines unmet needs in inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) research to guide future investments

NEW YORK, NY – Today, the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation released its new five-year research agenda to address unmet needs in the inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) research community and provide a roadmap for not only the Foundation but also the IBD research community at-large. Published in Inflammatory Bowel Diseases journal, the 2019 Challenges in IBD Research identified five focus areas for the Foundation, including precision medicine, clinical research, preclinical human IBD mechanisms, novel technologies, and environmental triggers.

“While there have been major advances in treatments for patients with Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, there is still great need to find new therapies for those suffering, and new biomarkers, diagnostics, and research findings to optimize the use of treatments currently available,” said Dr. Caren Heller, Chief Scientific Officer for the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation. “We believe that the unmet needs outlined in the new Challenges in IBD Research provide direction so that we can focus efforts to drive the continuum from new discovery to optimal care and achieve the positive impact that we’re seeking for all IBD patients.”

Challenges in IBD Research defines research gaps and steps forward to more quickly have a positive impact on patients. The process began last year when the Foundation convened 100 scientists, pediatric and adult gastroenterologists, surgeons, bioengineers, industry partners, patients, and caregivers to assess and document progress on past accomplishments and identify areas of unmet needs to focus on in the future. 

“Through Challenges in IBD Research, we worked with members of the IBD community – including patients and caregivers – to identify the top priority research areas and define tangible deliverables that have the greatest potential to improve patient quality of life and bring us closer to our vision of a future free from Crohn’s and colitis,” said Dr. Scott Snapper, Director of the Inflammatory Bowel Disease Center at Boston Children’s Hospital and immediate past chair of the Foundation’s National Scientific Advisory Committee.“There is a significant opportunity to build on recent progress to catalyze dramatic advances in IBD research and thus translate these advances into meaningful improvements in patient outcomes, and the research strategy outlined in Challenges in IBD Research will allow us to do just that.” 

Below is a summary of how the Foundation will approach and address the unmet needs outlined in Challenges in IBD Research:

Preclinical Human IBD Mechanisms: To lay the groundwork for advances such as new drugs, laboratory studies must be done to understand the biology of how IBD progresses in the human body and how this could be reversed. The Foundation is working to ensure that its research is relevant to the biology of IBD as experienced by patients, to maximize the likelihood that the resulting research will lead to meaningful advances such as new ways to treat the diseases.

Environmental Triggers: Environmental factors, like diet and psychological stress, are thought to play a role in IBD, but more research needs to be done to document and understand which environmental factors cause disease onset and flares and how we can intervene to alleviate their impact. The Foundation’s focus will be in assessing and measuring the biological response of patients to different environmental factors and understanding the mechanisms by which they can drive disease outcomes.  

Novel Technologies: Innovative engineering approaches, such as medical devices, are being used in other areas of medicine but have not yet been extensively applied to IBD. The Foundation will focus on adapting new technologies for non-invasive or minimally invasive IBD diagnosis, monitoring of disease activity, and personalized treatment.

Precision Medicine: Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis are deeply complex diseases with a range of factors influencing symptoms, disease course, and response to treatments. The Foundation is working to better understand and predict which patients will best respond to a specific treatment based on the patient’s unique clinical and biological characteristics. This will, in turn, enable researchers and clinicians to develop and deliver more effective and individualized care.

Pragmatic Clinical Research: Working in collaboration with clinical teams and patients and using real-world data, the Foundation will answer questions relevant to daily clinical practice and evaluate the effectiveness of current practices in diagnostics and treatments. This has the potential to lead to standardization and optimization of the best quality of care and to improvement of clinical outcomes.

To learn more about the Foundation’s research initiatives, visit


Crohn's & Colitis Foundation

The Crohn's & Colitis Foundation is a non-profit, volunteer-fueled organization dedicated to finding the cures for Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis, and to improving the quality of life of children and adults affected by these diseases. It was founded in 1967 by Irwin M. and Suzanne Rosenthal, William D. and Shelby Modell, and Henry D. Janowitz, M.D.