RPR132331, a 2-(2-dioxanyl)imidazole, was identified as an inhibitor of tumour necrosis factor (TNF)alpha release from lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-stimulated human monocytes. An intensive programme of work exploring the biology, toxicity and physical chemistry of a novel series of inhibitors, derived from RPR132331, has led to the identification of RPR200765A, a development candidate for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis (RA). RPR200765A is a potent and selective inhibitor of p38 MAP kinase (IC50 = 50 nM). It inhibits LPS-stimulated TNFalpha release both in vitro, from human monocytes (EC50 = 110 nM), and in vivo in Balb/c mice (ED50 = 6 mg/kg). At oral doses between 10 and 30 mg/kg/day it reduces the incidence and progression in the rat streptococcal cell wall (SCW) arthritis model when administered in either prophylactic or therapeutic dosing regimens. The compound, which is a mesylate salt and exists as a stable monohydrate, shows good oral bioavailabiltiy (F = 50% in the rat) and excellent chemical stability. The data from the SCW disease model suggests that RPR200765A could exhibit a profile of disease modifying activity in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients which is not observed with current drug therapies.