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The chapel facade of Magdalen College, Oxford, was awash with colour this evening to raise awareness of the plight of those living with rare disease.

Magdalen College Chapel for Rare Disease Day as part of the Global Chain of Lights 2024 © Cyrus Mower
Magdalen College Chapel for Rare Disease Day 2024. Picture: Cyrus Mower

February 29, an exceptional day in its own right, is an awareness day for rare diseases and this illumination is part of a worldwide initiative - a Global Chain of Lights - to raise awareness of the 400 million people internationally who have a unique condition. 

A disease is classed as rare when it affects fewer than 1 in 2000 people and there are over 3.5 million people living with a rare condition in the UK alone. These disorders are characterised by a broad range of symptoms that vary not only from disease to disease but also from patient to patient. The fact that there is usually no existing effective cures for these disorders adds to the high level of pain and suffering endured by patients and their families.

The illumination was arranged by the Oxford-Harrington Rare Disease Centre, which forms part of the Department of Paediatrics. The centre brings together the strengths and capabilities of Oxford University and the Harrington Discovery Institute, and is aimed at driving cutting-edge breakthroughs to address the unmet need in rare disease across the globe, and to deliver major clinical impact for patients.