Sheffield scientists in the running for £50m for motor neurone disease research
Sheffield scientists have welcomed the government’s £50 million investment to accelerate motor neurone disease (MND) research to bring effective treatments for patients living with the terminal neurodegenerative disease.
The funding, pledged by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, will support innovative MND research like the pioneering work conducted by scientists at the University of Sheffield’s Institute for Translational Neuroscience (SITraN) and NIHR Sheffield Biomedical Research Centre.
It is part of a wider £375 million package in innovative research to improve understanding and treatment for a range of neurodegenerative diseases. It is hoped research projects pioneered in Sheffield will benefit from the investment to help accelerate translational research.
MND kills six people in the UK every day, with a third of those diagnosed losing their lives within just a year.
Professor Dame Pamela Shaw is Professor of Neurology and Consultant Neurologist at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals Foundation Trust, and the Director of the NIHR Sheffield Biomedical Research Centre.
She said: “Recent pre-clinical and clinical research means that we have a much better understanding of the mechanisms causing motor neuron injury in MND and the best ways of conducting clinical trials to test new therapies.
“Of all of the neurodegenerative conditions, MND is the condition most ready for translating insights from discoveries in basic neuroscience into benefits that improve the quality of life and life expectancy of our patients.
“This significant uplift in funding will allow the major MND research groups across the UK to come together, combine their skills and work with industry partners and MND charities to generate new neuroprotective therapies, offering huge optimism and hope for patients and families facing this cruel disease.”
Professor McDermott has been one of the leading neurologists in the United To End MND campaign, which has been integral to securing the new funding commitment.
Launched two-years ago by a coalition of charities including the MND Association, MND Scotland and the My Name’5 Doddie Foundation, the campaign has lobbied the government for more funding in order to find a cure for the debilitating disease.
Sheffield’s facilities and expertise in progressing and generating world-class clinical research into advanced therapies and novel treatments including in MND are also set to expand further next year with the launch of a new Gene Therapy Innovation and Manufacturing Centre.
The new hub will enhance vital partnerships with biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies to help accelerate gene therapy programmes and clinical trials, at the same time as supporting regional economic growth and job creation.
Professor Chris McDermott, Professor of Translational Neurology at the University of Sheffield's Neuroscience Institute and Consultant Neurologist at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals Foundation Trust, added: “MND has been sitting behind an impenetrable wall but, over the last few years, chinks have been appearing thanks to our better understanding of the disease.
“This money will allow us to break into those chinks, rip them apart and enable us to develop effective treatments for patients with MND.
“We have been making new discoveries which are important building blocks to find a cure for the disease, but the progress has been slow. This funding could potentially lead to effective therapies for patients in years rather than decades.”