Coeliac UK has launched a new research fund and fundraising appeal that aims to raise £5 million to improve understanding and management of coeliac disease and gluten related autoimmune conditions.

The charity says the move will boost research efforts into key areas identified and agreed by patients, carers and healthcare professionals, including identifying the triggers for the disease, and improving understanding of neurological forms of the condition.

Understanding the link between Coeliac disease and other conditions, such as type I diabetes and autoimmune thyroid disease, and preventing onset of the disease are also among top priorities.

The Fund has already received an injection of £500,000 from Innovate UK, which, in addition to £250,000 from the charity, will support a new research competition.

Match funding will draw in a further £250,000 from industry, making the first £1 million available from the Fund, the group noted.

“It is possible through further research, that finding the answers to coeliac disease could enable answers to other devastating autoimmune conditions such as Type I diabetes,” said Sarah Sleet, chief executive of Coeliac UK.

“With more people being diagnosed with coeliac disease each year and with new health complications emerging, it is critical that we make the commitment now to change the status quo and make coeliac disease research everyone’s priority.”

One in 100 people in the UK has coeliac disease - where the body’s immune system reacts to gluten found in food, making the body attack itself - and it currently takes an average of 13 years for the condition to be diagnosed. According to the charity, half a million people in the country remain undiagnosed.