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£375m for neurodegenerative diseases research

The award also includes £50m for dedicated research into MND

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Investment of £375million will be made over the next five years to fund research into neurodegenerative diseases, it has been announced. 

The commitment also includes at least £50million dedicated to research into motor neurone disease (MND) – a currently incurable condition that affects the brain and nerves and affects 5,000 people in the UK. 

Following a high-profile campaign led by the MND Association and Rob Burrow, MND Scotland and the My Name’5 Doddie Foundation, new and innovative projects will now be funded, to help advance understanding of the disease and its genetic transmission, develop and test treatments and improve care for those living with MND.

A new National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Research Unit will also be set up to coordinate research applications for the new funding, encouraging more innovative studies with the ultimate goal of finding a cure.

There is currently only one drug licensed in the UK to treat MND – Riluzole – which slows the progression of the disease and can extend a person’s life by a few months. 

The new Government funding will now help to accelerate progress across the UK to find better treatments for MND, and give people living with the condition the chance of a better quality of life, and more good years with their loved ones.

“This investment is going to drive MND research forward towards treatments and cures,” says Sally Light, chief executive of the MND Association. 

“This is the hope we have been longing for. I want to thank every single person who has joined us in this campaign.”

As well as MND, the £375million investment will fund projects into neurodegenerative conditions including Pick’s Disease, Fronto-temporal dementia, wernicke-korsakoff, Parkinson’s disease dementia, Lewy Body dementia, Alzheimer’s disease and mild cognitive impairment.

Health and Social Care Secretary, Sajid Javid, said: “Neurodegenerative conditions like MND can have a devastating impact on people’s lives and I’m committed to ensuring the government does everything we can to fight these diseases and support those affected.

“We’ve already invested millions in understanding and treating MND and our new funding commitment will back more research into this and other neurodegenerative diseases.

“The UK is a global leader in medical research. Our world-class research sector was central to the discovery of lifesaving treatments for COVID-19 like dexamethasone and Tocilizumab, as well as the development of the vaccine programme which has saved hundreds of thousands of lives.

“We will continue to harness this expertise and innovation to support pioneering projects to find better treatments for those living with motor neurone disease, like the excellent work underway at NIHR Sheffield Biomedical Research Centre where scientists are trialling new drugs to treat the condition.”

The NIHR has committed to ongoing research into MND, reinforced by issuing a Highlight Notice inviting applications from ambitious research projects to take potential treatments from the lab to the clinic, as part of scaled-up efforts to significantly improve the care and support available.

The NIHR has also awarded a prestigious Research Professorship to leading motor neurone disease researcher Professor Chris McDermott. The award will focus on improving care for people with MND, bolstering leadership in this area of research, and strengthening the design of clinical trials to help more people with the disease take part.

While there is still work to be done, progress is being made, including through the development of better data resources such as MND Register and MND Biobanks which support researchers working to better understand the disease.

Improved data sets make it easier for scientists to monitor responses to treatment in clinical trials. 

And through innovative and flexible trial designs, researchers are able to conduct faster and cheaper trials which will deliver potential new treatments to patients more quickly.

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