Government continues delivering on £50 million funding pledge for motor neurone disease research

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Health and Social Care Secretary Steve Barclay. Picture by Simon Dawson / No 10 Downing Street

On Global MND Awareness Day, Science Secretary Chloe Smith and Health and Social Care Secretary Steve Barclay have confirmed a total of £36.5 million has now been allocated, just two years into a five year commitment to supporting MND research with at least £50 million of public backing.

The funding that has now been awarded is supporting cutting-edge research that it is hoped will enable faster progress towards treatments for this debilitating condition.

The newly-allocated funding consists of just under £7 million in grants through the Medical Research Council (MRC) to researchers.

Secretary of State for Science, Innovation and Technology Chloe Smith said:

Motor neurone disease is a cruel and devastating condition. We are unrelenting in our commitment to supporting both the people living with this condition, and the brilliant minds across Britain who are working in the hope it can become treatable – and one day even curable.

Last year we cut unnecessary red tape, enabling us to deliver funding for this crucial work even more quickly. Today, we are redoubling efforts by providing further support for the world-leading scientists and researchers who are taking the fight to MND.

Health and Social Care Secretary Steve Barclay said:

Motor neurone disease has a devastating impact on people’s lives, and I continue to work with leading scientists to cut red tape and accelerate research.

Almost three quarters of our pledged £50 million funding has been awarded to projects across the UK.

I want this vital funding to get to where it needs to be as quickly as possible so early phase studies can lead the way in helping us find new and effective treatment for those people who are living with this debilitating disease.

We know we are not there yet, but we will find a cure and we’re doing everything we can to make it happen.

Professor Lucy Chappell, Chief Scientific Adviser to the Department of Health and Social Care, said:

Motor neurone disease is debilitating.

This update demonstrates our commitment to helping the UK’s world-leading scientists to test promising new drugs and confirms the government’s commitment to MND research. Our investment will also help train and support the next generation of MND scientists to tackle this complex illness.

Research is the best opportunity we have of finding new insights and ways to treat MND and improve the lives of everyone impacted by the disease.

The government has committed to delivering at least £50 million to support MND research over 5 years, from 2022 onwards. This investment is being made by the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology and the Department for Health and Social Care, to reinforce the progress being made by the UK’s world-leading scientists focusing on MND.

Recent successes include stem cell research by the Francis Crick Institute to investigate the molecular processes that cause the disease, and the development by the UK Dementia Research Institute (DRI) of a new form of testing for MND, which is now being used in a clinical trial to assess the effectiveness of a new treatment.

The latest £7 million being announced today in research grants will support work on novel molecules that could unlock new therapeutics, a study of the disease mechanisms of MND, and the funding of three research fellowships looking into MND risks and its early stages.

All of this builds on the funding already announced in December to enable MND research, which includes:

£8 million for early phase clinical research for MND, speeding up innovative new treatments for patients through the NIHR Biomedical Research Centres (specialist research centres that bring together experts to translate scientific breakthroughs into potential treatments for patients). Today it is being announced that, subject to contracts being signed, the Universities of Sheffield and Oxford will lead a collaboration with 10 other centres working on early phase clinical research for MND which seeks to speed up innovative new treatments for patients.

£12.5 million to support the best MND discovery science at the UK Dementia Research Institute (DRI), recognising the fact that the underlying mechanisms of MND are shared with frontal temporal lobe dementia, presenting new possibilities for targeted drug development.

A £3 million translational accelerator investment from MRC (to be matched later by another £3 million from NIHR) to join up these investments with other relevant programmes such as the MND collaborative and the UK Dementias Platform.

£1 million of government funding, which was allocated in June 2022, to enhance co-ordination of UK MND research by setting up a MNDCollaborative Partnership, bringing together people living with MND, charities and MND researchers across the UK to discover meaningful MNDtreatments. This is co-funded by the medical research charity LifeArc and MND patient charities MND Association, My Name’5 Doddie Foundation and MND Scotland.

£2 million additional investment in this MND Collaborative Partnership to focus on gathering and analysing existing data on the condition to explore the underlying causes of MND and help develop breakthrough new treatments.

The remainder of the committed £50 million MND funding is available for researchers to access via a joint NIHR and MRC highlight notice, inviting outstanding researchers across the academic and life science sector to submit applications to an open call for the highest-quality projects.  NIHR and MRC funding for MND is not capped and applications for this important research area are always welcome through usual research and fellowship funding rounds.

MND is a condition that affects the brain and nerves, and 5,000 people in the UK are thought to have the condition. There is currently only one drug licensed in the UK to treat MND – Riluzole – which slows the progression of the disease and extends someone’s life by a few months.

In 2021, at least £50 million in funding was committed to MND research over the following 5 years by the Department of Health and Social Care and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, as part of a package of £375 million for research into neurodegenerative diseases.

The £7 million in research grants through the Medical Research Council (MRC) being announced today will go towards:

Building research capacity through the funding of three fellowships (at the University of Oxford, University of Cambridge, and University of Edinburgh) aimed at better understanding of the risks and early stages of MND and better understanding of disease progression.

Funding three research awards (at the University of Sheffield, University of Cardiff, and King’s College London) focussed on the discovery of novel molecules that could provide new avenues for therapeutics.

Funding one research award (at the University of Edinburgh) looking at better understanding of MND’s underlying disease mechanisms.

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