Researchers at Oxford University have been awarded a £6 million grant for their cutting-edge research programme on finding drug targets for Parkinson's Disease. This new funding builds on an initial £5M investment from Parkinson’s UK to researchers at the Oxford Parkinson’s Disease Centre (OPDC) in 2010.
One in 500 people in Oxfordshire have Parkinson's – a neurological condition which can leave people struggling to walk, speak and sleep, and which has no cure.
By 2020 the multidisciplinary team at Oxford hopes to use the £6 million to find new drugs to slow, or even stop Parkinson's, using a 'brain cell bank' they have developed to identify promising new drug targets. They also want to improve how to diagnose and monitor Parkinson's using new technology, such as smartphone apps.
In the last five years, the team has developed one of the largest studies of people living with Parkinson's anywhere in the world, leading to progress in understanding why brain cells die and in detecting early changes in patients before full symptoms occur. Working with Thames Valley patients the team have created a tool to detect early stage Parkinson's with 85% accuracy using brain imaging.
Professor Richard Wade-Martins, lead researcher at the OPDC, said of receiving the funding: 'In the last five years we've made remarkable progress. We've built a study integrating work in the clinic and the laboratory like nowhere else in the world. Alongside this, our program to change cells from patients' skin into brain cells using cutting-edge stem cell technology has allowed us to gain completely new insights about Parkinson's and how it develops.
We’re delighted the new funding from Parkinson’s UK will secure the future of this and other vital projects.'
Lucy Norman, 42, who was first diagnosed with Parkinson's at the age of 38, and is taking part in research at the OPDC alongside her husband Angus, said: 'When you’re first diagnosed with Parkinson's it's a dreadful moment. You're frightened, you can't really believe it’s happening. Having some of the world’s best medical minds researching my condition on my doorstep is a real comfort, and being able to be a part of it is a great feeling.'
Dr Arthur Roach, Parkinson's UK Director of Research and Development, said, 'Oxford is one of a few special places where all of the different strands of Parkinson's research weave together - researchers in the lab are working side by side with doctors who see Parkinson's every day in the clinic. We believe it's the meeting of minds in this exciting environment that’s most likely to produce the breakthrough we need to find a cure.'
The Monument Trust - a Sainsbury's Charitable Trust - provides funding to Parkinson's UK to support the OPDC.