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£50m to accelerate Motor Neurone Disease (MND) research

Published: 13 December 2022

The NIHR will play a critical role in new government action speeding up research into Motor Neurone Disease (MND) across the UK, with immediate investment so patients can benefit from cutting edge treatment and medicines sooner.

Last year, £50 million was committed to MND research over the next five years by the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, reinforcing progress being made by the UK’s world-leading scientists.

The government is now accelerating £29.5 million of the committed funding into specialist research centres and partnerships with leading researchers to reduce bureaucracy and help researchers access funding as quickly as possible.

The £29.5 million package includes:

  • £8 million for early phase clinical research for MND, speeding up innovative new treatments for patients through NIHR Biomedical Research Centres (BRCs)
  • £3 million translational accelerator investment from the NIHR to join up these investments with other relevant programmes such as the MND collaborative and the UK Dementias Platform
  • £500k of NIHR funding, allocated in June 2022, towards boosting co-ordination of UK MND research through the MND Collaborative Partnership, bringing together people living with MND, charities and MND researchers across the UK to discover meaningful MND treatments.

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 which slows the progression of the disease and extends someone’s life by a few months.

In order to fast track funding, the NIHR and Medical Research Council (MRC) will work together to ensure proposals from researchers are referred to the most appropriate scheme for consideration at the early idea stage. Removing red tape will ensure funding reaches frontline researchers more quickly.

Over half of the £50 million funding will be managed through the NIHR and MRC. Researchers can access the funds via an open call.

£8 million investment for NIHR BRCs

NIHR BRCs are collaborations between academics and clinicians which translate breakthroughs in the lab into potential new treatments, diagnostics and medical technologies.

Previous research supported by NIHR researchers at NIHR Sheffield BRC found a promising motor neurone disease drug helps slow disease progression of the disease when the new drugs were given to patients. The experimental drug targeting a rare form of motor neurone disease showed significant physical benefits after 12 months. The new funding will support additional research into MND.

£20.5 million to accelerate promising treatments

Outstanding researchers across the academic and life science sector are invited to submit applications to an open call jointly managed with the MRC.

The funding will support researchers to:

  • Better understand the disease and its related conditions
  • Develop and test treatments
  • Eventually give people living with the condition the chance of a better quality of life, and more good years with their loved ones

Professor Lucy Chappell, Chief Executive of the NIHR and Chief Scientific Adviser to the DHSC, said: “This significant commitment to delivering motor neurone disease research is a hugely welcome next step towards really tackling this debilitating illness.

“This detailed plan makes full use of our world-leading health research sector, and gives us the best chance of making truly impactful findings and treatments.

“Health research saves lives. We look forward to working with our researchers, partners and people living with motor neurone disease to ensure the work outlined today is the best it can be.”

The NIHR currently has an existing MND highlight notice and also accepts proposals on MND research through its researcher-led workstreams.

Find out more about government action on MND on the DHSC’s website.

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