Innovating in Ageing

A public private partnership to speed the development of new therapeutics for age related illness.

We are an ageing society. It is predicted that by 2050 just under a quarter of the population will be over 60, and with this comes a societal need to manage how we age.  There is a global urgency for new interventions, which includes new therapeutics to treat multiple long term conditions associated with ageing.

UK SPINE, UKRI and Research England logos. Elderly hands with medication.UK SPINE, UKRI and Research England logos. Elderly hands with medication.

Age is the major risk factor for  many multiple long term conditions. Research shows that there are a number of biological pathways associated with ageing and that intervening in these might help prevent the onset of, and treat, these types of conditions.  

UK SPINE is a network of six partner institutions, namely the University of Oxford, University of Birmingham, the Drug Discovery Unit, at the University of Dundee, the Medicines Discovery Catapult, EMBL-EBI/Open Targets and the Francis Crick Institute, working together on a common goal to discover and develop drugs to target these pathways. Each partner has complementary expertise and capabilities that account for different stages of target and drug discovery and development. Drug discovery and development is costly, risky and slow. It focuses and on an outdated system for disease based on the organ involved rather than the pathogenic cellular process. Consequently, the few novel treatments that are produced, are becoming increasingly unaffordable. Furthermore, in an attempt to minimise risk, many companies are focussing on ‘well trodden’ areas of science in a duplicative and wasteful manner, which limits innovation. UK SPINE believes ‘open collaboration’ between partner institutions is likely the only way to generate more novel and affordable medicines for patients. 

With the support of funding from Research England, UK SPINE has developed a ‘spine’ of partners from Scotland to London who provide the expertise needed to deliver new medicines from the earliest stage of discovery to early stage clinical trials.  To date UK SPINE has established the foundations of the network, through  the development of bespoke projects and legal agreements which allow knowledge to be created, shared and captured at all stages of this pipeline, making translational projects better equipped for success and eventual patient benefit. 

The science of ageing is complex. This project seeks to look underneath the common co-morbid diseases related to ageing and identify common underlying processes such as senescence, metabolic defects, cellular inflammation, DNA damage and tissue repair. It considers whether it is possible to deliver new treatments which correct these underlying processes and ultimately allow one pill to treat more than one illness at any given time. 

UK SPINE’s approach allows the opportunity to develop more affordable medicines to meet an area of growing unmet need.  Ultimately the cost to benefit for the health service is key. The ability to prolong the number of healthy years of life each individual can reasonably expect to achieve is beyond a financial value.

Funder: This work is funded by Research England