A groundbreaking clinical drug trial for motor neurone disease has been launched after a £1.5m investment from MND Scotland.
Hundreds of people living with the condition are being invited to take part in the trial known as MND-Smart, which aims to find treatments that can slow, stop or reverse progression of the terminal disease.
Currently, more than 400 people in Scotland are living with motor neurone disease (MND) and this trial will be open to almost every person in the country with the illness.
While typical clinical trials focus on a single drug, MND-Smart will allow more than one treatment to be tested at a time, giving patients a higher chance of receiving an active treatment, rather than the placebo.
Lawrence Cowan, chair of MND Scotland, said: “Today is an historic moment in our fightback against motor neurone disease and because of the incredible generosity of our supporters, MND Scotland has invested £1.5m into MND-Smart.
“MND killed my best friend Gordon Aikman so suddenly, I never got a chance to say a proper goodbye.
“But I did make a promise to him that I would fight for everyone to have access to drug trials. I wish he was here to see this day.
“This is one of the biggest MND trials the UK has ever seen – and it’s open to almost everyone with the disease.
“We will continue to fight to give people with MND access to effective treatments, and to beat MND once and for all. Together we can make it happen.”
The project, which is being led by researchers at the Euan MacDonald Centre for MND Research at the University of Edinburgh, has been developed to find effective medicines more quickly.
The clinical trial is designed to be adaptive so that the researchers can modify their approach according to emerging results.
New drugs can be added once the trial has started, while medicines that prove ineffective can be dropped.
Initially researchers will test drugs that are already licensed for use in other conditions to check whether they offer any benefit for people with MND.
The repurposing of existing drugs avoids some of the lengthy approvals processes associated with new drugs and could cut years off the time taken for the medications to become available through the NHS.
Dr Suvankar Pal, neurologist and MND-Smart co-investigator, said: “We’re very excited to be launching this trial. It gives real hope to people with MND across the UK.
“We’re hugely grateful to the people with MND who have helped us design the trial and we think their involvement will mean that far more people will be able to take part.
“I would also like to thank our key strategic partners, and specifically MND Scotland, alongside all the donors and fundraisers who have made this possible.”