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 need for new interventions, which includes new therapeutics to treat diseases associated with ageing, in addition to obesity, diabetes, rare diseases and overcoming resistance to current antibiotics.

UK Spine logoUK SPINE.
Unfortunately the current modus operandi for drug discovery and development is too costly, too risky and too slow as it is based on an outdated system for disease based on the organ involved rather than the pathogenic cellular process.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 highly duplicative and wasteful manner, and are pursuing too little innovation. To tackle many of these problems, the UK SPINE have chosen to only work on novel or ‘wicked’ drug targets, share all our novel tools, data and knowledge freely and immediately. This strategy has been shown to work well with one of the founders, the Structural Genomics Consortium (SGC) forming deep collaborations with 9 pharmaceutical companies, >300 academic groups, 7 patient organisations, several med-tech companies, entrepreneurs, funders and policy makers. UK SPINE believe this ‘open collaboration’ is likely the only way to generate more novel and more affordable medicines for patients.

With the support of funding from Research England UK SPINE have 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.  The UK SPINE hubs are the Universities of Dundee, Oxford and Birmingham, Medicines Discovery Catapult, Manchester and the Francis Crick institute.  Together we are developing 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 and this project does not seek to reverse or rejuvenate the process, rather 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.  Is it 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