Drugs for brain diseases such as dementia, motor neurone disease and Parkinson’s, which have stalled in development, could be revived thanks to up to $47.1 million in funding and resources from a global coalition of charities and funders. The Neurodegeneration Medicines Acceleration Program (Neuro-MAP), led by U.K. medical research charity MRC Technology, will help charities and funding bodies identify promising drug projects no longer in development and help scientists take them forward to the next stage.
The vision of this innovative new venture is to drive forward research on potentially beneficial brain disease drugs that currently are not being developed and are sitting in pharmaceutical company libraries—before returning them to the companies to test in large-scale clinical trials. The consortium represents more than 50 million people living with neurodegenerative conditions worldwide. The number of people with these conditions is set to rise substantially in the next few decades.
Neuro-MAP will ask pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies to propose projects to the consortium. The Neuro-MAP partner organizations will decide which projects to take on by evaluating patient needs, scientific excellence and commercial potential. Neuro-MAP projects also will support the repurposing of existing drugs and compounds for other conditions, such as testing hypertension drugs for vascular dementia.
Research into neurodegenerative conditions is complex, expensive and has a high failure rate, resulting in many pharmaceutical companies turning their attention to more favorable research areas. But with no treatments to stop the progression of these brain disorders, there is an urgent need to revive research into the conditions.
Jeremy Hunt, U.K. Secretary of State for Health, 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 endeavor by accelerating drug R&D.”
Dr. Doug Brown, director of R&D at the Alzheimer’s Society, said, “People are developing dementia on a scale of one case every three minutes in the U.K. and 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 U.K. will have dementia,” said Brown. “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.”
Partners in the Neurodegeneration Medicines Acceleration Program are the Alzheimer’s Association, Alzheimer Research U.K., the Alzheimer’s Society, the ALS Association, the Michael J. Fox Foundation, MND Association, MRC Technology, Northern Health Science Alliance and Parkinson’s U.K.