Parkinson’s UK invests up to £3 million in a promising project which could slow progression

7 December 2021

Parkinson’s UK, Europe’s largest charitable funder of research into the condition, is leading a project to develop molecules that can reduce inflammation within the brain. This could hold exciting potential to slow the progression of Parkinson’s, something no current medication can do.

What role does inflammation play in Parkinson's?

In addition to its well-known role in fighting infections, the immune system plays an important role in maintaining healthy tissues by removing damaged cells and other debris from areas including the brain. However in chronic conditions like Parkinson’s there is a persistent, low-level activation of this branch of the immune system over many years. This results in a form of inflammation within the brain (called “neuroinflammation”) that is believed to contribute to a cycle of tissue damage and cell loss.

Scientists have started looking for a way to reduce this chronic inflammation, in the expectation that it could interrupt the cycle of damage and thereby slow or stop progression of Parkinson’s. This could lead to a new class of Parkinson’s treatments that target elements of the immune system.

Discovering molecules that reduce neuroinflammation

Early-stage work carried out by Parkinson’s UK in 2020 discovered a new family of molecules which target a protein found on the surface of microglia - the main immune cells in the brain that become overactive in Parkinson’s.

Parkinson’s UK is now investing to drive forward the further development of these molecules, progressively refining the current molecules and testing them in lab grown cells derived from people with Parkinson’s and mice that have been genetically engineered to mimic the problems seen in Parkinson’s.

By the end of the project Parkinson’s UK aims to have discovered molecules that can get into the brain and stop harmful inflammation, that can be taken forward into further testing and ultimately clinical trials.

Funding from the Parkinson’s Virtual Biotech

Parkinson’s UK will be providing up to £3 million over the next two-and-a-half years to advance this project. The funding comes via the charity’s drug development arm, the Parkinson’s Virtual Biotech, a programme which is plugging the funding gap to fast-track the projects with the greatest scientific potential to transform the lives of people with Parkinson’s. This is its biggest single funding commitment to date under the programme.

Dr Arthur Roach, Director of Research at Parkinson’s UK said:

“Parkinson’s is the fastest growing neurological condition in the world, and currently there is no cure. Current therapies only help to manage symptoms so there is an urgent important need for new and better treatments that can slow the devastating progression of the condition. If we can create a treatment that stops the harmful, runaway inflammation in the brain in Parkinson’s it could be the breakthrough the Parkinson’s community have been waiting for.”

Dr Richard Morphy, Drug Discovery Manager at Parkinson’s UK explains:

“We are really excited by this opportunity, and this new funding allows us to build on our initial discovery of these molecules and optimise their potency and ability to penetrate into the brain. We will continue to look for other mechanisms and molecules that also have the potential to act on microglia and reduce inflammation, so we have the best possible chance of delivering a life-changing new treatment for Parkinson’s.”


Notes to editors

Media enquiries:

For more information please contact: Tara Macpherson, Senior Media and PR Officer, Parkinson’s UK, 0207 963 9311,

You can reach the Parkinson’s UK press office at:, 0207 963 9370 or 07961 460248 (out of hours).

About Parkinson’s and Parkinson’s UK

Parkinson’s is what happens when the brain cells that make dopamine start to die. There are more than 40 symptoms, from tremor and pain to anxiety. Some are treatable, but the drugs can have serious side effects. It gets worse over time and there’s no cure. Yet.

Parkinson’s is the fastest growing neurological condition in the world. Around 145,000 people in the UK have Parkinson’s.

For more facts and statistics, please click here.

Further information, advice and support is available on our website,

About The Parkinson’s Virtual Biotech

People with Parkinson’s urgently need new treatments. But right now, there’s a huge gap in drug development. The Parkinson’s Virtual Biotech exists to bridge that critical funding shortage.

It takes the most promising research and partners with institutions and pharmaceutical companies worldwide to develop the findings into plausible drug treatments. Currently there are projects at the discovery, preclinical and early clinical development stages.

With no large teams of scientists or expensive labs to run, the Parkinson’s Virtual Biotech ensures that every penny of the annual £4m investment goes on what matters most: fast tracking the projects with the greatest potential to transform the lives of people with Parkinson’s.

No one else is doing this. It’s a bold risk. But we believe it will deliver a groundbreaking new treatment by 2024. Because people with Parkinson’s won’t wait. Together, we’ll find a cure.

To find out more, visit