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Saturday 19 October 2019
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Collaborating to better understand difficult to treat diseases

MSD and the Francis Crick Institute in London have entered into a collaboration to understand the causes of motor neurone disease and better understand difficult to treat diseases.

In the clinic, it’s devastating when I have to tell a patient they have motor neurone disease,” says Dr Rickie Patani, a research group leader at the Crick and UCL and consultant neurologist at the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery.

Through fundamental research, we want to understand the basic biology underpinning the disease. Just knowing what’s happening can offer some comfort to patients, even when there aren’t treatments around the corner. I am excited to start our new collaboration with MSD, which we hope will give us a comprehensive understanding of the earliest events that cause Motor Neurone Disease. This is a unique science-led partnership, driven by our shared commitment to helping patients in the long term.”

The new collaboration will build on previous work from Dr Patani’s group, which identified key mechanisms that can kill motor neurons in patients.

Fiona Marshall, Vice President, Head of Neuroscience Discovery and Head of Discovery Science at MSD UK said: “We are delighted to be working with Rickie and his colleagues at the Crick and I am hopeful that this collaboration could produce ground-breaking research which will ultimately change how we treat a broad spectrum of diseases in the future. This collaboration is a great example of the opportunities that can arise from a thriving life science community when doors and minds are open.”

The multi-disciplinary project crosses traditional boundaries between clinical, academic and industry research, with Dr Patani as a practising neurologist working alongside Crick, UCL and MSD scientists. The unique approach is possible thanks to matched funding from the Medical Research Council, one of the Crick’s founding partners.

This latest agreement builds on MSD’s commitment to establish a research presence in London, which will enable stronger collaboration with UK and European research organisations. Earlier in the year, a group of MSD researchers started working at the Crick, ahead of their move to a new London site.

Veronique Birault, Director of Translation at the Crick, said: “We are very excited that MSD are back undertaking research in the UK, and will be working with us on discovery science. There is so much we don’t know about neurodegeneration, and working together from such an early stage will help us to build knowledge and understanding from the ground up. By combining our expertise, we hope to truly advance the field and potentially offer hope for future generations.”