News archive 2009
Neurodegenerative Research Awards03 Nov 2009, PR 233/09
King’s is one of the research partners in a £17 million funding round from the Wellcome Trust and Medical Research Council that will support three major new Neurodegenerative disease projects with particular focus on Alzheimer's Disease, Parkinson's Disease and Motor Neurone Disease.
The multi-disciplinary collaborations aim to provide a better understanding of the causes of these diseases in a bid to improve early diagnosis and develop more effective therapies. The collaborations bring together leading academic research teams from around the UK, from London, Bristol, Cambridge, Dundee, Manchester and Sheffield, as well as leading international groups and pharmaceutical companies.
Professor Christopher Shaw from the MRC Centre for Neurodegeneration Research at King’s who will be leading a project on Motor Neurone Disease and Frontotemporal Dementia comments: ‘Recent research on Motor Neurone Disease and Frontotemporal Dementia has shown that RNA-processing proteins are deposited in degenerating nerve cells and that rare mutations in three known genes cause a genetic form of these diseases.’
Using these discoveries, Professor Shaw and his colleagues will model key aspects of the human disorders, allowing them to explore fundamental disease mechanisms and identify new therapeutic targets.
Lord Sutherland of Houndwood, Chair of the Neurodegenerative Diseases Initiative Funding Committee said of the research proposals: ‘These are teams of outstanding researchers with a clear vision and innovative approach to understanding these conditions and towards developing novel interventions.
‘The scientific challenges are considerable and these benefits will not materialise overnight, but these major awards will change the research landscape in which these disorders are being addressed. Neurodegenerative diseases represent a significant burden on patients and carers, as well to wider society and the economy. As the elderly population increases worldwide, this burden is set to increase further.’
New therapeutic approaches
Although treatment options are already available for some conditions, these are generally of very limited effectiveness and treat the symptoms rather than preventing onset. The development of new therapeutic approaches is therefore essential. Alongside this, identifying markers to allow for the earliest possible diagnosis will maximise the effectiveness of preventative measures and optimise the use of current treatments.
Sir Mark Walport, Director of the Wellcome Trust says: ‘Neurodegenerative diseases cause a great deal of human suffering and place considerable burden on our health services. New advances in biomedical science, ranging from clinical through to molecular and genetic studies – make this an exceptionally timely moment to focus on better understanding what causes these conditions and ever earlier identification of their incipient onset.’
Sir Leszek Borysiewicz, Chief Executive of the MRC, says: ‘It’s likely that over our lifetimes we will all be touched in some way by the impact of neurodegenerative diseases. By investment in the scientific excellence now, we hope research will bear real fruit in future practice, eventually leading to improved early diagnosis and more effective therapies. We’re proud to provide some of the financial muscle behind these really innovative research projects, which embrace a number of disciplines, to tackle these debilitating conditions.’
[Image from The Wellcome Trust]
Notes to editors
King's College London
King's College London is one of the top 25 universities in the world (Times Higher Education 2009) and the fourth oldest in England. A research-led university based in the heart of London, King's has more than 21,000 students from nearly 140 countries, and more than 5,700 employees. King's is in the second phase of a £1 billion redevelopment programme which is transforming its estate.
King's has an outstanding reputation for providing world-class teaching and cutting-edge research. In the 2008 Research Assessment Exercise for British universities, 23 departments were ranked in the top quartile of British universities; over half of our academic staff work in departments that are in the top 10 per cent in the UK in their field and can thus be classed as world leading. The College is in the top seven UK universities for research earnings and has an overall annual income of nearly £450 million.
King's has a particularly distinguished reputation in the humanities, law, the sciences (including a wide range of health areas such as psychiatry, medicine and dentistry) and social sciences including international affairs. It has played a major role in many of the advances that have shaped modern life, such as the discovery of the structure of DNA and research that led to the development of radio, television, mobile phones and radar. It is the largest centre for the education of healthcare professionals in Europe; no university has more Medical Research Council Centres.
King's College London and Guy's and St Thomas', King's College Hospital and South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trusts are part of King's Health Partners. King's Health Partners Academic Health Sciences Centre (AHSC) is a pioneering global collaboration between one of the world's leading research-led universities and three of London's most successful NHS Foundation Trusts, including leading teaching hospitals and comprehensive mental health services. For more information, visit: www.kingshealthpartners.org.
Kate Moore, Public Relations Officer (Health Schools)
Public Relations Department
Tel: 020 7848 4334
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