RACING legend Jenny Pitman led a double celebration at Oxford’s Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre as work on a £12m research centre reached a major milestone.

The former racehorse trainer was there to mark the 10th anniversary of Oxford University’s Botnar Research Centre, which is engaged in groundbreaking work to relieve crippling and painful diseases such as inflammatory arthritis, osteoarthritis and osteoporosis, sporting injuries and cancer.

Phase two of the centre project is well under way and Ms Pitman was invited to perform a topping out ceremony for a new building that will effectively double the size of the research centre, allowing the team of researchers to expand from 120 to 240.

Funding for the £12m centre was raised entirely through the Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre Appeal, of which Jenny Pitman is vice- chairman.

The appeal has passed the £22m mark, which includes funds provided for three wards – of which one is a children’s ward – and a hydrotherapy pool.

The first phase of the Botnar Research Centre, which specialises in musculoskeletal research, opened its doors within the grounds of the NOC in 2002.

The Duchess of Cornwall laid the foundation stone of the second research building more than two years ago. The exterior work has been completed and the building is opening in December.

Ms Pitman was joined at the topping out ceremony last week by the vice-chancellor of Oxford University Professor Andrew Hamilton and the chief executive of Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust, Sir Jonathan Michael.

Andrew Carr, Nuffield Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery, said patients in Oxfordshire benefited directly from the advances in treatments resulting from the Botnar Centre’s work.

He said: “With the Kennedy Institute going up just down the road, near the Churchill Hospital, Oxford will have the biggest group of researchers investigating osteoarthritis and osteoporosis in Europe, if not the world.

“The centre brings the best people to work here and Oxford patients benefit more rapidly from the new treatments being developed. Ninety per cent of patients coming to the NOC now participate in research in some way. Almost no one refuses.

He said the work at the centre covered “almost anything to do with the spine, legs and arms.”

In recent years, the centre has discovered new treatments for rheumatoid arthritis involving biological therapies that “switch off” inflammation, and developed the “Oxford knee”, now widely used for knee replacements.