MIPS lands major grant towards Alzheimer’s research

MIPS lands major grant towards Alzheimer’s research

31 August 2016

As the first of September marks the start of Dementia Awareness Month in Australia, Monash University today announced the award of a significant grant by The Wellcome Trust towards funding research into treatments for Alzheimer’s and other debilitating neurodegenerative diseases. Over 350,000 Australians are currently living with Dementia.

Recognising Monash’s research excellence and global presence in the field of pharmaceutical sciences, leading international medical research funding organisation The Wellcome Trust awarded Monash Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences (MIPS) researchers £4.2 million (over A$7.1m).

This substantial grant will be used to pursue research aimed at producing more effective, side-effect-free treatments for diseases including Alzheimer’s and schizophrenia.

The grant will underpin a major collaboration between Professors Patrick Sexton and Arthur Christopoulos at Monash with Professor Andrew Tobin in the Centre for Translational Pharmacology at the University of Glasgow, UK. The funding will enable new research on a family of drug targets called G protein-coupled receptors, or GPCRs.

“GPCRs are well-known to be involved in most human diseases, but many current drug discovery efforts targeting these proteins show alarming failure rates in translating promising preclinical findings to the clinic and onto the market,” Professor Sexton said.

“If we could understand key mechanisms underlying this preclinical-to-clinical translational gap, we would be able to unlock the door to many new medicines.”

The grant will enable world-leading scientists to come together to investigate which molecular features distinguish drugs that act effectively on GPCRs from those that don’t. The research will specifically focus on the muscarinic acetylcholine receptors, a GPCR family involved in memory deficits associated with Alzheimer’s disease and schizophrenia.

"Our research suggests that some of the major drivers underlying the failure to translate preclinical GPCR discoveries into the clinic is not because the wrong target has been chosen but, rather, that the wrong approach has been used towards exploiting that target,” Professor Christopoulos said.

“We have discovered that there are far more subtle and innovative ways of selectively targeting GPCRs than most current approaches. These approaches have the potential to yield better drug candidates with a higher chance of clinical efficacy, as well as a reduced propensity for side effects. Through the award of this grant, we aim to use our studies of the muscarinic receptor family as a proof of concept that can subsequently be applied to other receptors and disease states.”

The Wellcome Trust is the United Kingdom's largest provider of non-governmental funding for scientific research and one of the largest providers in the world. In the field of medical research, it is the world's second-largest private funder after the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.