Partnership will establish drug candidates using both laboratory tests and machine-learning
A project involving researchers based in Edinburgh wants to establish effective combinations of existing drugs which, used together, could treat motor neuron disease (MND).
It is being led by professor Siddharthan Chandran, group leader at the UK Dementia Research Institute (UK DRI) and director of the Euan MacDonald Centre for MND Research – both of which are situated at the University of Edinburgh.
The £3.3m project is funded by the medical research charity LifeArc, as part of a continuing collaboration between UK DRI and the charity. The link up brings together the strengths of UK DRI’s research into discovery science with LifeArc’s experience in taking lab discoveries forward and translating them into benefits for patients.
In the initial element of the study, researchers will establish top drug candidates, using both laboratory-based tests on motor neurons grown in the lab from patient donated stem cells, as well as a machine-learning approach that reviews scientific studies of MND.
Consequently, pairs of candidate drugs will be tested within the stem cell models of MND, against different biological pathways known to be implicated in the condition.
Ultimately, the target is to gain regulatory approval to test the most promising and effective combinations of drugs in the Euan MacDonald Centre’s MND-SMART (Motor Neuron Disease – Systematic Multi-arm Adaptive Randomised Trial) trial.
This study – unfolding across 20 sites in the UK – is designed to reduce the time it takes to find medicines that can slow or stop MND.
Professor Siddharthan Chandran, was encouraged about the partnership and its aims: “As has been shown for cancer therapy, using combinations of drugs that target different pathways might be our best chance of slowing or stopping the progression of MND. This innovative project is an important next step in identifying effective medicines for MND.”