MIAMI & NEW YORK (August 23, 2022) – The Parkinson’s Foundation and Parkinson’s UK, an organization based in the United Kingdom that funds research and provides life-changing support for people with Parkinson’s disease (PD), have announced a new international strategic partnership to boost investment in groundbreaking research leading the search for new treatments for PD, which affects 10 million people worldwide.
Over the next three years, the Parkinson’s Foundation will invest a minimum of $3 million into the Parkinson’s Virtual Biotech, the drug development arm of Parkinson’s UK. The money, in addition to Parkinson’s UK’s ongoing investment, will accelerate research into the scientific breakthroughs that have the greatest potential to become life changing medications. Parkinson’s UK has invested over $19 million (£16 million) in Virtual Biotech projects since it started in 2017.
By operating like a biotech but without the additional costs of full-time staff and buildings, the Parkinson’s Virtual Biotech is a uniquely innovative approach to drug development within the charity sector. Led by pharma and biotech experts, the Virtual Biotech team reviews and curates the most promising research from the thousands of studies underway at any given time. The experts identify projects with strong potential that would otherwise struggle to find private sector investors. Then the Parkinson’s Virtual Biotech invests in these directly, providing ongoing oversight and stewardship, and identifying the right global partners to work with.
Currently the Parkinson’s Virtual Biotech is fast tracking nine promising projects including the potential of cannabidiol to treat psychosis in PD, whether a common anti-sickness drug could manage hallucinations, and if it’s possible to develop therapies that restore mitochondrial function to slow or stop the condition.
Parkinson’s is the fastest growing neurological condition in the world and currently there is no cure. Nothing can slow, stop or reverse the condition’s progression. Existing treatments can help manage symptoms but often come with side effects and get less effective over time.
Arthur Roach, PhD, director of research at Parkinson’s UK, said “Drug development is ultimately what will lead to new treatments, but it comes with high risk, high costs and long timelines. Our innovative approach takes methods from the private sector and venture capital financing and adapts them to the charitable context, allowing us to be agile and tactical in how we invest, monitor and keep projects moving.
“This is an exciting new phase for the Parkinson’s Virtual Biotech. We’ve been growing steadily and are starting to see the first successes from the early projects we’ve invested in over the last five years. But we’ve always known that there is much more to be done than we can manage on our own, and hoped that by championing this innovative approach, we could inspire others to collaborate with us in this next phase and create a truly international movement.
“Through this long-term strategic partnership with the Parkinson’s Foundation, we will together be able to invest more funding into more projects, both new and existing. Together, we can deliver much needed new treatments for Parkinson’s in years, not decades.”
The two transatlantic charities have a long history of working together. They share a decade-long active collaboration to accelerate research through effective patient involvement. A new phase of collaboration began with the Parkinson’s Foundation’s first grant to support the Parkinson’s Virtual Biotech in September 2019. The partnership has been driven by a shared mission to deliver better treatments for the global PD community, focusing on the most pressing needs.
“We are pleased to partner with Parkinson’s UK to further drug discovery development, as part of our newly established Venture Philanthropy Fund, that will help the international Parkinson’s community,” said John L. Lehr, president and CEO of the Parkinson’s Foundation. “This collaboration will help us better serve people living with Parkinson’s today while furthering the promise of a cure tomorrow.”
About the Parkinson’s Foundation
The Parkinson’s Foundation makes life better for people with Parkinson’s disease by improving care and advancing research toward a cure. In everything we do, we build on the energy, experience and passion of our global Parkinson’s community. Since 1957, the Parkinson’s Foundation has invested more than $400 million in Parkinson’s research and clinical care. Connect with us on Parkinson.org, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or call (800) 4PD-INFO (473-4636).
About Parkinson’s Disease
Affecting an estimated one million Americans and 10 million worldwide, Parkinson’s disease is the second-most common neurodegenerative disease after Alzheimer’s and is the 14th-leading cause of death in the U.S. It is associated with a progressive loss of motor control (e.g., shaking or tremor at rest and lack of facial expression), as well as non-motor symptoms (e.g., depression and anxiety). There is no cure for Parkinson’s and 60,000 new cases are diagnosed each year in the U.S. alone.