Seven neurodegeneration research projects receive £14.5m from LifeArc-UKDRI partnership

The first projects to be funded through LifeArc’s £30 million strategic partnership with the UK Dementia Research Institute (UKDRI) have been announced today.

A total of £14.5 million has been allocated to support seven major projects seeking to develop new tests, treatments and medical devices to help the more than 1 million people in the UK living with neurodegenerative conditions including Alzheimer’s disease, motor neuron disease, fronto-temporal dementia (FTD) and Parkinson’s disease.

LifeArc’s strategic partnership with UK Dementia Research Institute (UK DRI) was established in 2022 to leverage the strengths of both organisations and advance research in the field of dementia.  By combining the research capabilities of UK DRI with LifeArc’s translational expertise the two organisations will aim to bridge the gap between laboratory discoveries and clinical applications to accelerate the development of new treatments and therapies.

The projects receiving the funding are:

  • Developing a small molecular drug target to treat amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS and a form of MND) and frontotemporal dementia (FTD), led by Prof Adrian Isaacs (UK DRI at UCL)
  • A low cost highly scalable diagnostic approach for Alzheimer’s, led by Prof Sir David Klenerman (UK DRI at Cambridge)
  • Identifying new combinations of existing drugs to treat motor neuron disease (MND), led by Prof Siddharthan Chandran (UK DRI Director)
  • A unique gene therapy approach for ALS and FTD, led by Dr Marc-David Ruepp (UK DRI at King’s)
  • Repurposing an anti-anxiety drug to treat small vessel disease, led by Prof Paul Matthews (UK DRI at Imperial).
  • Developing an antibody therapy targeting complement, part of the innate immune system for Alzheimer’s, led by Prof Paul Morgan and Dr Wioleta Zelek (UK DRI at Cardiff).
  • Digitally enhanced care for people affected by dementia, led by Prof David Sharp (UK DRI Care Research & Technology).

A joint committee between UK DRI and LifeArc agreed the projects and Dr Kay Penicud, UK DRI Director of Innovation & Business, said “It is fantastic to see such a breadth of high-quality translational research from across many of our Centres in these projects. These pioneering projects will bring us ever closer to our mission of new treatments for people affected by dementia. We’re thrilled to be partnering with LifeArc, and excited to see progress in these immensely promising research areas in the coming years.”

Dr Karen Skinner, Chief Project & Portfolio Officer at LifeArc said “Our partnership with UK DRI allows us to identify and back the most promising translational research with the potential to transform the lives of those with neurodegenerative conditions. By working together, we reduce risk by further validating opportunities and enhancing appeal to potential future partners, such as pharmaceutical companies, who can subsequently advance these innovations through the clinic and onto the market for those who desperately need them. The initial projects we are funding reaffirm the wealth of untapped research talent that exists within the UK.”

Research into neurodegenerative conditions is one of five healthcare themes identified by LifeArc as areas where this is significant unmet patient need. Overall LifeArc is investing up to £100m to tackle neurodegenerative conditions.