Charity workshop set to unlock new treatments for Parkinson’s

Parkinson’s UK has held its first ever Drug Discovery Workshop in an effort to unlock new treatments by seeking new ways to progress academic research.

The event, which was attended by researchers from across the world, aimed to help delegates understand how commercialising their scientific discoveries can open up research to wider funding streams and allow them to progress more quickly through the drug discovery process.

The workshop is part of the charity’s Virtual Biotech programme of work, which the charity launched earlier this year in an effort to plug the funding gap in drug development for Parkinson’s. It involves working with academia to create a series of single-asset spin-out companies, all with the aim of furthering promising scientific leads to discover more effective treatments for the condition faster.

Director of Research at Parkinson’s UK, Dr Arthur Roach, said: “Levodopa – the most widely used drug to treat the symptoms of Parkinson’s – was discovered in the 1960s. Although we’ve seen tremendous advances in our understanding of the underlying biological changes in Parkinson’s since then, we have not yet managed to turn these into a cure.

“We know that promising scientific breakthroughs for Parkinson’s are happening every day but, due to the funding gap in early stage drug discovery, they are not being picked up and developed into medication by commercial companies quick enough.

“Our Drug Discovery Workshop aimed to help academics gain a better understanding of what is needed to develop their research findings into real treatments that can make a difference to more than 127,000 people with Parkinson’s across the UK.”

Delegates of the two-day event were able to take part in activities and talks around the theme of how promising research can be used to launch a biotech company to attract further funding. It also included insights from the directors of Keapstone Therapeutics – a £1m virtual biotech company created by Parkinson’s UK in partnership with Sheffield University earlier this year.

The company, which operates virtually with no premises or permanent staff, is driving forward a particular research project that was initiated by the University’s Sheffield Institute for Translational Neuroscience (SITraN), which could to lead to drugs that can slow, stop or even reverse Parkinson’s.

Speaking at the event, Dr Patrick Lewis, Associate Professor at the University of Reading, said: “This kind of event is crucial for the academic community. Too often I think research is carried out in a bit of a void – away from the concerns of actually making a drug that will benefit patients, even though that should be the key consideration. It’s incredibly important that academics working on Parkinson’s understand what it takes to actually go from a good idea in the lab through to a drug used by patients.”

Dr James Beck, Chief Scientific Officer at the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation in America, said: “People with Parkinson’s are in desperate need for new treatments, so initiatives like the Virtual Biotech are very exciting - anything that tries to speed up the drug discovery process is incredibly important.

“Coming to this event really helped improve my knowledge of drug discovery and gave me a better understanding of what is needed to take basic ideas out of the lab and in the best possible position to move forward into the clinical pipeline.”

Following the success of this first Drug Discovery Workshop, the charity now aims to hold similar events in future. To register your interest in attending, or for more information, please email

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For more information please contact: Kirsty Callingham, Senior Media and PR Officer, Parkinson’s UK, 020 7932 9311,

Out of hours: 07961 460248