My Name'5 Doddie Foundation pledges £250,000 helps bid to find new MND therapies.
Scientists are to use lab tests to investigate whether drugs that already treat a range of conditions could help people with motor neurone disease.
The initiative could cut years spent waiting for treatments to become available because the drugs being tested are known to be safe.
Researchers at the University of Edinburgh have received £250,000 from the My Name’5 Doddie Foundation, launched by former rugby star Doddie Weir, to support the research.
The team at the Euan MacDonald Centre for Motor Neurone Disease Research will take samples of blood cells from people with MND and convert them into brain cells in the lab.
These cells will have all the characteristics of the patients’ own brain cells, including signs of their condition.
Scientists will use advanced automated laboratory drug testing technology, developed at the University of Edinburgh, to screen scores of existing medicines on the cells. They hope to identify drugs that might have beneficial effects on MND symptoms.
They will also test combinations of drugs, to check whether different types of medicines might have synergistic effects.
The researchers hope to prioritise promising drugs that could be fast-tracked for clinical trials. Motor neurone disease is a progressive condition that affects the brain and spinal cord. There are no treatments and most people die within one year of diagnosis.
Professor Siddharthan Chandran, Director of the Euan MacDonald Centre for Motor Neurone Disease Research at the University of Edinburgh, said: “We’re specifically investigating drugs that are already licensed as treatments for other diseases. If we find something that looks promising, it can be taken into clinical trials far more quickly than an unlicensed drug.
“As well as testing individual medications, we’re looking at combination therapies as we’ve learned from cancer research that these are often more effective for fighting complex diseases such as MND.”
Doddie Weir said: "We launched My Name'5 Doddie Foundation with the clear aim of supporting research to help find a cure for MND. This is our second significant investment in research and we are delighted to be working with the respected Euan MacDonald Centre at the University of Edinburgh. Euan and his family have done a great deal in the fight against this devastating disease and we hope that by pledging funds to this this new initiative, we can help make a difference.
"This commitment has only been possible through the incredible help and fund raising efforts of the fine people who have supported us over the past ten months. The response to my diagnosis and the launch of the Foundation has been inspiring and we will continue to do all we can to help find a cure."
Euan MacDonald, who co-founded the research centre in his name at the University of Edinburgh in 2007, said: “We welcome this investment from the My Name’5 Doddie Foundation, which builds on the expertise we have at the Euan MacDonald Centre and lays the foundations for a strong partnership between our organisations. It will go a long way towards helping our scientists discover potential treatments for MND.”