The NDC was established with an inaugural $25 million challenge gift from the Robert A. and Renee E. Belfer Family Foundation to the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Baylor College of Medicine and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). The Belfers’ commitment is contingent on the consortium partners raising a matching $25 million in private philanthropy. The Huffington Foundation leads the way in this effort, bringing total matching contributions to more than $15 million.
Recent work in neurodegeneration, cancer and other age-associated diseases has revealed common molecular themes in their genesis. The NDC aims to generate treatments that may be effective across many diseases associated with advanced age.
The consortium allows for the integration of novel target discovery activities in the basic science laboratories with the drug discovery engine of MD Anderson’s Institute for Applied Cancer Science (IACS). Researchers will share discoveries, while IACS will in turn translate these findings into the next generation of targeted drugs and diagnostics for neurodegeneration.
NDC collaborators are using genomic technology to identify new molecular targets to combat neurodegenerative diseases. Specifically, investigators are inhibiting and interrogating thousands of genes, one at a time, to identify those that decrease levels of the disease-driving proteins.
The IACS’ inaugural drug discovery project, led by Ming-Kuei Jang, Ph.D., and Philip Jones, Ph.D., focuses on neuronal protection, which will engage innate protective mechanisms that promote the health of neurons following injury and aging. This strategy could have a broad impact on patients with various neurodegenerative diseases, as well as cancer patients suffering from neuropathy. A second project, currently under evaluation, aims to develop diagnostic tools to detect neurodegenerative disease earlier, even before symptoms occur, and to determine response to innovative therapies.