Seven big pharma companies have joined forces with a medical charity to improve clinical trials of new Parkinson's disease (PD) therapies.
The initiative - led by Parkinson's UK and the US-based Critical Path Institute (C-Path) - was first set up last year and aims to accelerate the development of safe and effective therapies for PD by bringing together experts from both public and private organisations.
The new industry partners in the Critical Path of Parkinson's consortium are AbbVie, AstraZeneca, Biogen, Eli Lilly and Company, Merck Sharp & Dohme (known as Merck & Co in the US and Canada), Pfizer and UCB.
Parkinson's UK said the addition of industrial partners would bring together "researchers, drug companies and regulators to change clinical trials so they're smarter, and more likely to deliver new treatments for people with the condition".
A key element of the initiative is the collection, standardisation and sharing of data from past PD trials in order help develop new approaches to the design of future trials, particularly those focused on early-stage PD.
"Investing in clinical trials for brain disorders currently carries a high cost and high risk of failure", said Arthur Roach, director of research at Parkinson's UK, which has earmarked £1m in funding for the effort.
"As the world's largest patient-led Parkinson's charity, we know that people living with conditions such as Parkinson's have often been disappointed when drugs that showed significant promise early on failed in late stage testing."
Nevertheless, after years of very little development in the PD therapy landscape, there are signs that prospects for patients are improving with 365 compounds in development addressing a broad range of molecular targets, according to a recent report from GBI Research.
Analyst Angel Wong notes that 43% of those candidates with disclosed targets are first-in-class, with a number that are designed to address underlying neurodegenerative mechanisms in the disease. At the moment, PD treatments only provide symptomatic relief.