Promising drug projects that could provide individuals with treatments and cures for Parkinson's disease, dementia and motor neurone disease (MND) have been given a welcome financial boost.
The Neurodegeneration Medicines Acceleration Program (Neuro-MAP), which is being led by UK charity MRC Technology, is going to identify research projects that have stalled and rejuvenate them.
As things stand, there are many potentially beneficial drugs sitting idle in pharmaceutical company libraries, which are not being developed.
There are a number of partners in Neuro-MAP, such as the Alzheimer's Association, Alzheimer's Society UK, Michael J Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research, Parkinson's UK and the Motor Neurone Disease Association.
Pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies will be asked to present certain research projects to Neuro-MAP and the committee will decide which ones it will invest in. They will discuss patient needs, scientific excellence and commercial potential when making their decision. The current annual budget for investment is $48 million (£31 million).
In addition, repurposing of drugs currently on the market will be explored, because if any are suitable for tackling a different disease, the security hurdles have already been overcome - meaning it can be available significantly quicker than a new drug.
Dr Maria Carrillo from the Alzheimer's Association said the global impact of these diseases is "personally devastating and cripplingly costly".
"Because no treatments are currently available to stop the progression of these terrible brain diseases, there is an urgent need to expand research on available compounds. No stone should be left unturned."
Director of research and development at the Alzheimer's Society Dr Doug Brown pointed out that while there hasn't been a new drug for a decade, people are developing dementia "on a scale of one every three minutes" in the UK.
He said that too many potential drugs were "languishing in laboratories" because the firms that own the rights to them are focusing on different projects.
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