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Charities Pledge to Inject Millions to Jump Start Drug Development for Brain Diseases


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A global coalition of charities and funding bodies has been formed to invest up to £30 million into restarting the development of promising drug candidates for neurodegenerative conditions such as dementia, motor neurone disease and Parkinson’s disease. The Neurodegeneration Medicines Acceleration Programme (Neuro-MAP), led by medical research charity MRC Technology, will identify promising drug projects that are no longer in development by the industry and help scientists to take them forward to the next stage, before returning them to pharmaceutical companies for further development into marketable treatments.

It is estimated that over 50 million people worldwide currently live with neurodegenerative diseases. However, research into these conditions is complex, expensive and has a high failure rate due to the complexity of brain and nervous system function. This means that pharmaceutical companies that may have promising drug candidates at an early stage of development have to side line them and turn their attention to more favourable research areas. With the number of people living with neurodegenerative conditions set to rise substantially during the next few decades, and too few treatments available to stop the progression of many brain disorders, there is an urgent need to revive research and development for both relatively common and rare brain and central nervous system disorders.

As a coalition of 9 charities and funders, Neuro-MAP will help ensure that the potential of fundamental early stage research into neurodegenerative disease is realised, taking promising drug candidates forward towards clinical testing. It will also look to repurpose existing drugs and compounds for other conditions, for example, the use of hypertension drugs for the treatment of vascular dementia.  The programme protects both charities’ and pharma’s investment and allows charities to maximise their impact on patient’s quality of life.

Partners in the Neuro–MAP are: Alzheimer’s Association US, Alzheimer Research UK, Alzheimer’s Society UK, ALS Association, Michael J Fox Foundation, MND Association, MRC Technology, Northern Health Science Alliance and Parkinson’s UK.

UK Government’s Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt said:

“New treatments for brain diseases are vital if we are to improve the lives of the millions of people around the world who live with them. Tackling conditions like dementia is one of our central priorities, which is why we are doing more than ever to identify new treatments and, ultimately, find a cure. This innovative project will make a vital contribution to our shared endeavour by accelerating drug development and research.”

Dr Doug Brown, Director of Research and Development at Alzheimer’s Society said:

“People are developing dementia on a scale of one case every three minutes in the UK.  Not only is there no cure, the treatments we have only work for some people and we haven’t had a new drug for a decade. Too many potential drugs are languishing in laboratories because the companies who own them have moved in other directions. By rescuing these projects and moving them forward we aim to bring these drugs closer to the people who desperately need them.  

“By next year 850,000 people in the UK will have dementia. We need a massive step change in research funding in order to develop new treatments, but it’s not just about throwing money at the problem. Innovative projects like this will help demolish the barriers to dementia research and that’s why we’re delighted to be working as part of it.”

Mike Johnson, Director of Corporate Partnerships at MRC Technology said:

“We’re pleased to be able to use our unique position at the centre of charities, funders, academia and industry to bring together the right combination of funding, skills and capabilities to really impact quality of life for patients living with these debilitating and destructive diseases.  This is an amazing opportunity to accelerate the next generation of neurodegenerative drugs towards the patient.”

Dennis Gillings, UK’s World Dementia Envoy said:

“This is a hugely encouraging step forward in dementia research. Instead of potential treatments sitting idle on shelves, they have the possibility of being re-tested with new life breathed into them. Hopefully this kind of initiative brings the search for a cure one step closer.”

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