Parkinson’s Foundation and Parkinson’s UK partner to drive drug development

August 23, 2022 - 3 minutes
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The Parkinson’s Foundation and Parkinson’s UK, which funds research and provides support for people with Parkinson’s disease (PD), have announced a new international strategic partnership to boost investment in research on new treatments for PD, which affects 10 million people worldwide.

Over the next three years, the Parkinson’s Foundation will invest a minimum of $3 million into the Parkinson’s Virtual Biotech, the drug development arm of Parkinson’s UK. The money, in addition to Parkinson’s UK’s ongoing investment, will accelerate research into the scientific breakthroughs that have the greatest potential to become life changing medications. 

Parkinson’s UK has invested more than $19 million in Virtual Biotech projects since it started in 2017.

How the Parkinson’s Virtual Biotech works

By operating like a biotech but without the additional costs of full-time staff and buildings, the Parkinson’s Virtual Biotech is a new approach to drug development within the charity sector. 

Led by pharma and biotech experts, the Virtual Biotech team reviews and curates the most promising research from the thousands of studies under way at any given time. The experts identify projects with strong potential that would otherwise struggle to find private sector investors. 

Then Parkinson’s Virtual Biotech invests in these directly, providing ongoing oversight and stewardship, and identifying the right global partners to work with.

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Currently the Parkinson’s Virtual Biotech is fast tracking nine promising projects including the potential of cannabidiol to treat psychosis in PD, whether a common anti-sickness drug could manage hallucinations, and if it’s possible to develop therapies that restore mitochondrial function to slow or stop the condition.

Existing treatments

Parkinson’s is the fastest growing neurological condition in the world and currently there is no cure. Nothing can slow, stop or reverse the condition’s progression. Existing treatments can help manage symptoms but often come with side effects and get less effective over time. 

Arthur Roach, director of research at Parkinson’s UK, said: “Drug development is ultimately what will lead to new treatments, but it comes with high risk, high costs and long timelines. Our innovative approach takes methods from the private sector and venture capital financing and adapts them to the charitable context, allowing us to be agile and tactical in how we invest, monitor and keep projects moving.

“This is an exciting new phase for the Parkinson’s Virtual Biotech. We’ve been growing steadily and are starting to see the first successes from the early projects we’ve invested in over the last five years. But we’ve always known that there is much more to be done than we can manage on our own, and hoped that by championing this innovative approach, we could inspire others to collaborate with us in this next phase and create a truly international movement.

“Through this long-term strategic partnership with the Parkinson’s Foundation, we will together be able to invest more funding into more projects, both new and existing. Together, we can deliver much needed new treatments for Parkinson’s in years, not decades.”

Long history

The two transatlantic charities have a long history of working together. They share a decade-long active collaboration to accelerate research through effective patient involvement. A new phase of collaboration began with the Parkinson’s Foundation’s first grant to support the Parkinson’s Virtual Biotech in September 2019.  

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“We are pleased to partner with Parkinson’s UK to further drug discovery development, as part of our newly established Venture Philanthropy Fund, that will help the international Parkinson’s community,” said John L. Lehr, president and CEO of the Parkinson’s Foundation. 

“This collaboration will help us better serve people living with Parkinson’s today while furthering the promise of a cure tomorrow.”

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