Neuroscience Programme

UCLPartners is both an Academic Health Science Centre (AHSC) and Academic Health Science Network (AHSN). The AHSC neuroscience programme aims to combine and build on the expertise of our member organisations, to develop innovation and to translate basic science into meaningful outcomes for the benefit of our local population. Our AHSN neuroscience programme is delivered through our both our cardiovascular and mental health workstreams.

Neuroscience programme (AHSC)

The aim of the AHSC neuroscience programme is to become one of the leading centres in the world for the rapid development, application and evaluation of novel treatments and interventions for neurological, psychiatric and hearing disorders.

Work within the programme focusses on six areas:

  1. Mental Health
  2. Neurodegeneration
  3. Neuroprotection
  4. Sensory systems and therapies
  5. Understanding and influencing human behaviour
  6. Development of neurological biomarkers

The neuroscience programme has three workstreams:

Neurodegeneration

This workstream supports the development and implementation of translational activities in neurodegeneration into new therapeutics and first-in-man-studies.

Progress to date

The neuroscience programme supports the Leonard Wolfson Experimental Neurology Centre (LWENC) facility for first-in-man studies in neurodegenerative diseases. This centre is hosting 27 clinical studies (total of 64 since it opened).

Other successes include the launch of the first ever antisense oligonucleotide Huntington’s disease (HD) gene silencing study in 2015, and 10 new studies in developing biomarkers in Cerebrospinal fluid for neurodegenerative studies.

Dementia Research Institute

The aim of this workstream is to establish a new dementia research institute that will support world class dementia research, drawing on the expertise that UCL and University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (UCLH) bring to this area. The institute will be housed at a dedicated facility in Queen Square, London, and will bring together basic scientists and clinical researchers.

Progress to date

Work is underway to create this new institute. UCL has a highly successful partnership with Japanese pharmaceutical company Eisai, created to establish a major drug discovery and development collaboration to investigate radical new ways of treating neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, and  in October 2015, we established an exciting new research partnership with the Japanese pharmaceutical company Takeda.  Furthermore, the UCL-Zurich Neuroscience Collaboration has generated seven awards to support joint neuroscience research initiatives.

The Alzheimer’s Research UK Drug Discovery Institute opened in May 2016. This £10 million centre is one of three drug discovery alliances in the UK working to accelerate the discovery of novel, effective therapeutics for Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative diseases. This institute is co-located with the Dementia Research Institute.

Multiple sclerosis (MS)

The programme has brought together the specialist expertise of the UCL Institute of Neurology, the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery and Queen Mary University of London to create the largest MS research and care centre in Europe. The centre aims to maximise the impact of MS research for patient benefit.

Progress to date

To date this centre has established a portfolio of trials involving a number of studies. These include:

  • MS SMART – a multi arm randomisation trial that tests three drugs in people with secondary progressive multiple sclerosis.
  • A study that engages community nursing to address how to reduce frequency of urinary tract infections, a major cause for hospital admission for patients with MS.
  • Development of a ‘MS dashboard’ to capture activities in research across UCLPartners, improve integration across the centres and maximise the output from the current research and clinical portfolio.

UCL Institute of Mental Health

The neuroscience programme plans to develop an Institute of Mental Health that will bring together the expertise that exists across neuroscience research at UCLPartners. The aim of the institute will be to understand the social and biological determinants of mental ill health, and ways to treat these, in order to reduce the burden of mental health.

Progress to date

A formalised partnership with Camden and Islington NHS Foundation Trust has been established. This partnership will ensure a more structured integration of research into clinical services, in an area of high mental health need. It also aims to accelerate the development of innovative approaches and improvements to the quality of clinical care and advances in clinical treatment and management.

A scientific strategy for the Institute of Mental Health has been agreed and funding for a Chair in Mental Health has been secured from the Sackler Foundation.

The i-THRIVE new model of care has been developed for children’s mental health through the Anna Freud Centre and several national accelerator sites have been identified to implement i-THRIVE in the coming year.

Programme leadership

Professor Alan Thompson, Dean, Faculty of Brain Sciences

Links

Max Planck UCL Centre for Computational Psychiatry and Ageing Research

UCL Biomedical Research Unit

UCL Institute of Ophthalmology

UCL Ear Institute

Shift.ms

UCL Institute of Neurology

Division of Psychiatry