LONDON, 12 Oct - Britain’s leading specialists believe a breakthrough is finally on the horizon for Parkinson's disease, with several clinical trials exploring potential treatments launching this year and in 2019, The Sunday Telegraph reported.
Dr David Dexter, deputy director of research at Parkinson’s UK, said: “It’s a positive time for research because we can see so much of the jigsaw coming together.”
When it comes to investment in research, Parkinson’s has long been overshadowed by a focus on other serious conditions such as dementia and cancer. British Parkinson’s research charities received around £40 million in donations last year - less than half of the amount given to the country’s main Alzheimer’s charities, and a tenth of that received by Cancer Research UK.
Dexter says the research world is positive about the potential of the new therapies currently being trialled. “Thirty years ago, we knew which cells died in Parkinson’s, but we had no idea why. Now we’ve got to the point where we know so much more about the mechanisms, how they work and how they interact with each other.
“The exciting thing is that now we’re actually developing the drugs to stop these mechanisms. Within the next five or so years, we should know which ones are the key drivers in the disease.
“Any one of those clinical trials testing one of those avenues now may prove positive,” he says. “But if they don’t, it will still add to our understanding. The success or failure of these trials will give us a clearer idea about which mechanism drives the disease."
Dr Simon Stott, deputy director of research at the Cure Parkinson’s Trust, explained that in order to find a cure for the disease, scientists must discover how to stop its progression, rejuvenate any remaining brain cells and replace those which have died.
Alzheimer's trial draws on 40 years of research
Meanwhile, elsewhere in the neurodegenerative research field, a potential new treatment for Alzheimer's disease is beginning clinical trials in 100 patients in London this month, the Financial Times reported on Tuesday.
The three-year trial involves a drug called miridesa and comes more than 40 years after its primary developer professor Mark Pepys began researching the amyloid proteins that play a critical but poorly understood role in the disease.
Pepys, professor of medicine at University College London, has focused on one particular protein, called “serum amyloid P” or SAP, which occurs at low levels in healthy blood but in high concentrations in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients.
He believes SAP may be harmful in two ways, by contributing to the formation of amyloid fibres characteristic of Alzheimer's and by directly poisoning neurons.
Many would-be treatments for the disease have tried to remove various forms of amyloid from the brain without success, but none target SAP.
UK tax rises needed to pay for NHS spending if no Brexit deal is found, Hammond warns
UK Chancellor Philip Hammond has warned that tax increases would be needed to pay for “big spending commitments” - such as adding £25 billion a year to NHS spending - if no Brexit deal is found before the budget is launched in two weeks' time.
His comments were reported by the FT on Friday, which cites Hammond as saying he would use a double bonus from a potential Brexit deal agreed with the EU to craft a budget that ends austerity and keeps the burden of debt falling and taxes low.
Speaking on the sidelines of the IMF annual meetings in Bali, the chancellor said a Brexit deal would improve economic forecasts and allow him to borrow more because he would no longer hold a fighting fund to protect the economy against a no-deal outcome.
The chancellor’s message was a direct challenge to Brexiteer MPs and ministers in his party to rally behind the prime minister or face a much tougher Budget in two weeks’ time, the FT noted.
GlaxoSmithKline invests in cancer start-up
GlaxoSmithKline is among a group of investors pumping $30 million into Oxford-based start-up Sitryx, which specialises in cancer immunotherapy.
The Sunday Times said that Sitryx’s scientists will be allowed access to Glaxo’s chemistry experts as part of the deal. Other backers include SV Health Investors and Sofinnova.
CAR-T deal puts NHS at ‘forefront of innovation adoption’
The Guardian at the weekend featured an opinion piece from Dr Iain Foulkes, Cancer Research UK’s executive director of research and innovation, who said there is an urgent need for more effective cancer treatments on the NHS.
He praised the recent deal between NHS England and Gilead for CAR-T therapy Yescarta, saying it “puts the NHS at the forefront of innovation adoption”.
He added that the introduction of these drugs also poses a new set of issues, saying the intricate manufacturing process can only currently be carried out by a handful of labs worldwide.
UK firms tackle respiratory illness
The FT at the weekend carried a feature looking at small UK life science firms working in the area of respiratory illness.
The article looked at hVIVO, which is testing new flu treatments. It has a market capitalisation of about £47 million.
The FT also featured Circassia, which has current market capitalisation of £264 million and has refocused its business on respiratory illness after failing to develop a treatment for people with allergy to cats. It is selling Niox, a device that measures airway inflammations, directly to specialists in the U.S., the UK and Germany.
The third company mentioned in the article was Verona Pharma, which is developing RPL554 for COPD, cystic fibrosis and asthma. CEO Jan-Anders Karlsson said he hopes the drug will enter the market in 2021.
NHS Scotland doctor calls for reduction in drug spend
The Times on Monday picked up comments by a senior NHS figure in Scotland who called for a reduction in the amount of money spent on developing new drugs and for the cash saved to be spent on patient care.
Jason Leitch, clinical director for healthcare quality and strategy, said at a GP conference in Glasgow: “We should spend less on developing new medicines and more on implementing what we know.”
He was also critical of the way NHS guidance is produced, saying that England’s NICE has 17 guidelines about how to write guidelines.
New era of cancer lawsuits threaten Bayer's Monsanto
A recent order forcing Monsanto to pay Dewayne Johnson $289 million in damages after ruling that the chemical group's popular weedkiller Roundup had caused his terminal cancer signals a new era of lawsuits for the firm, The Guardian reported in a Monday feature piece.
“It’s a big red flag for the company,” said Jean M Eggen, professor emerita at Widener University Delaware Law School, adding of the verdict: “It brings more people out who might not otherwise sue.”
Roughly 8,700 plaintiffs have made similar cases in state courts across the country, alleging that exposure to glyphosate-based herbicides led to various types of cancer, the paper reported. The impact could be huge if Monsanto continues to fight and lose in jury trials, and an accumulation of wins for plaintiffs could force the company to consider settling.
In August, when the fine was first handed down, Monsanto's pharma company owner Bayer saw its shares plunge 11% (APMHE 59300
). The German group bought Monsanto for $62.5 billion this June.
Head of UK pharma industry tells Brussels to put Brexit politics aside to help patients
The head of the organisation representing the UK’s pharmaceutical industry has criticised the EU for creating red tape and as yet refusing to help secure a Brexit deal that would ensure patients on both sides of the Channel get access to the medicines they need, The Telegraph reported on Wednesday.
Mike Thompson, chief executive of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry, said the UK government had set out in detail its desire to retain some sort of relationship with the European Medicines Agency (EMA) after Brexit and to share data on medicines and diseases. However, the EU has to date not commented on the proposals.
“This is despite the fact that Jeremy Hunt and Greg Clark a year ago made clear continued cooperation was the outcome the UK was looking for," he said.
"The Government has laid this out very clearly and in detail, but the EU has not responded to a single point and we have no insight into what the response is. We are five months away from a potential 'no deal' and everyone needs to put patients first and work together."
Thompson said the entire pharmaceutical industry across Europe was united in wanting to see the UK aligned with the EMA after Brexit. However, the lack of response from the EU Commission means drugmakers on both sides of the Channel have had to spend millions of pounds changing their operations to make sure they are compliant with red-tape regulations in the event of a no-deal Brexit.