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Targeting a cause of schizophrenia in the brain

A research collaboration involving scientists from the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience (IoPPN) at King’s College London has received over £3.2m in funding from the Biomedical Catalyst (BMC) for the first in-human trial of a drug that targets a cause of schizophrenia in the brain.

The project is a collaboration between Autifony Therapeutics, a small business based in London, and researchers from King's College London, The University of Manchester and Newcastle University. The Biomedical Catalyst (BMC) - a partnership between the Medical Research Council (MRC) and Innovate UK - has pledged £32m to 38 projects in universities and companies across the UK. The King’s team, led by Dr Oliver Howes from the Department of Psychosis, will lead the first evaluation of the new treatment in patients using innovative imaging and clinical symptoms. The universities of Manchester and Newcastle will look at models of psychosis in order to examine a mechanism in the brain thought to cause schizophrenia. 

Around one in 100 people will experience schizophrenia in their lifetimes. While it is treated with a combination of medication and therapy tailored to each individual, some with the condition experience a range of other conditions that can have a major impact on their lives. 

Funding from the BMC will support the first trial of a drug that targets one of the defects in the brain linked to schizophrenia. The trial of the drug – which works by acting on the brain circuits that are faulty in schizophrenia – will give vital information on how it acts in the body, what the best dose is and a test to determine how effective it is. This next stage in the development of the drug is supported with over £3.2 million in funding, with £1.15 million from the MRC and £1.25 from Innovate UK. 

Dr Oliver Howes said: ‘Schizophrenia has been called the abandoned illness and it is clear we need new approaches to treating it so it is great to have this support from the MRC and Innovate UK to take a new approach. It will enable us to study an innovative approach to treatment as part of a partnership which will combine the strengths of academia and industry.’

Greg Clark, Minister for Universities, Science and Cities, said: ‘Getting an idea to market is one of the hardest challenges any entrepreneur or small businesses will face when trying to turn their innovative ideas into a reality. The Biomedical Catalyst is giving a real lifeline to research and projects that will help improve or save countless lives.’

Notes to editors

For further media information please contact Jack Stonebridge, Press Officer, Institute of  Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience, King’s College London on or 020 7848 5377.