News Feature | November 21, 2014

Global Coalition Formed For Accelerating Drug Development For Brain Diseases

By C. Rajan, contributing writer

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A new coalition of nine charities and funding bodies has been formed to revive the development of promising drug candidates for neurodegenerative brain diseases — an initiative jumpstarted with roughly £30 million ($47 million) in funding.

Led by medical research charity MRC Technology, the global coalition named The Neurodegeneration Medicines Acceleration Program (Neuro-MAP), will focus on developing treatments for neurodegenerative conditions, such as dementia, motor neurone disease, and Parkinson’s disease.

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.”

The coalition’s goals are to seek out and jumpstart promising drug projects that are no longer in development, advance them up to the next level, and then hand them back to pharmaceutical companies to move into clinical trials and further development.

Explaining the motive behind this coalition, Neuro-MAP says that research into brain diseases is difficult, expensive, and often has high failure rates, leading many pharmaceutical companies to shelve what could end up being promising drug candidates. However, with the increasing cases of neurodegenerative disorders, such as dementia and Alzheimer’s, and no effective treatments for these conditions to date, a revival of these potential drug projects can help speed up the development of actual treatments.

Neuro-MAP will accept project proposals from pharmaceutical companies, and decide which stalled projects to restart by considering patient needs, scientific potential, and commercial potential. Neuro-MAP also intends to support the repurposing of existing drugs for other conditions, for example, evaluating the effectiveness of hypertension drugs in vascular dementia.

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 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.”

The charities and funders that have partnered in Neuro–MAP are: Alzheimer’s Association U.S., Alzheimer Research U.K., Alzheimer’s Society U.K., ALS Association, Michael J. Fox Foundation, MND Association, MRC Technology, Northern Health Science Alliance and Parkinson’s U.K.

According to the group, there are over 50 million people living with neurodegenerative conditions worldwide, and the number is expected to rise significantly in the next few decades in the face of an increasingly aging population.