Ireland to lead €7 million Parkinson’s research project

It is hoped that a systematic understanding of Parkinson’s will lead to improved tools for the early stages of drug development

A new research study aims to deepen the understanding of Parkinson’s so that better treatments can be developed in the future.

The project, which will be co-ordinated by RCSI (Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland), has been awarded €7m by the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI) with pharmaceutical industry and patient advocacy partners.

The PD-MitoQUANT project aims to increase understanding of how cells in the brain become damaged in Parkinson’s so more effective treatments can be developed for the one million people living with Parkinson’s in Europe today.

The researchers will focus on mitochondria, which malfunction in people with Parkinson’s. Mitochondria contribute to cell death and neurodegeneration and there is growing evidence of their role in Parkinson’s, but no effective treatments have been developed based on this knowledge.

The EU public-private partnership funding health research and innovation chose the project as it recognises that new, more effective treatments are urgently needed.

The PD-MitoQUANT co-ordinator is Professor Jochen Prehn, RCSI Chair of Physiology, Director of the RCSI Centre for Systems Medicine and Principal Investigator at FutureNeuro, the SFI Research Centre for Chronic and Rare Neurological Diseases. Professor Prehn said: “This project will join forces with top scientists in academia and industry to take a fresh look at how we identify and test novel drugs for the treatment of this devastating movement disorder.”

The key PD-MitoQUANT Investigators based at RCSI are Dr Niamh Connolly and Dr Orla Watters, Department of Physiology and Medical Physics and Centre for Systems Medicine, who will be focusing their research on Parkinson’s in the coming years.

Dr Niamh Connolly commented: “Although there are therapies currently available for Parkinson’s, they do not improve all symptoms, nor do they slow or prevent disease progression with time."

Professor Raymond Stallings, Director of Research and Innovation at RCSI said: “Research that informs improved treatments for patients is at the core of RCSI’s mission to lead impactful research that addresses Irish and international health challenges such as Parkinson’s and tuberculosis."

"RCSI is proud to be the first Irish Institution to lead an Innovative Medicines Initiative project, which is a testament to our strong expertise in high quality neurological research that drives advances to improve the lives of people with life-changing conditions.”