A new global coalition* of nine charities and funding bodies will oversee the investment of up to £30 million into kickstarting 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, aims to seek out promising drug projects for which industry has stalled development, bring them up to the next level, and then hand them back to pharmaceutical companies for further development.

Explaining the rationale behind the move, the group noted that research into neurodegenerative diseases has a high failure rate because of the complex mechanisms of the brain, and often promising candidates are dropped in the early stages as those with a higher success potential in other areas take precedence. 

But with the number of patients set to soar over the next few decades, and too few treatments available to halt disease progression, “there is an urgent need to revive research and development for both relatively common and rare brain and central nervous system disorders,” it said.

Welcoming the move, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said the project will make “a vital contribution” to securing new treatments for brain diseases by accelerating drug development and research.

Doug Brown, Director of Research and Development at Alzheimer’s Society, noted that by next year 850,000 people in the UK will have dementia. He says: “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.”

*Neuro–MAP partners 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.