United in the search for better treatments

The recent Critical Path for Parkinson's annual members' meeting brought together pharmaceutical companies, universities, charities and regulatory bodies to address the barriers to developing new treatments.

The Critical Path for Parkinson's, an initiative co-led by Parkinson's UK, supports collaboration to overcome some of the biggest challenges in clinical trials.

This year's members' meeting attracted a record 99 attendees from several countries, including leaders from major pharmaceutical companies. They were all united in the goal to improve clinical trials so they are more likely to deliver new treatments for people with Parkinson's.

What is the Critical Path for Parkinson’s? 

Clinical trials are the most costly and lengthy part of the whole research process. In recent years, several promising new treatments for Parkinson's have failed to show benefit in clinical trials.

Many in the research community believe the problem may not be that the drugs don't work, but that we're testing them in the wrong way. That's why Parkinson’s UK co-funds the Critical Path for Parkinson's alongside other partners.

Tools to improve clinical trials

The Critical Path for Parkinson's collaboration is designing computer-based tools to answer critical questions associated with the design of effective clinical trials. These include:

  • Why do trials fail? 
  • How can clinical trials select the right patients for success?
  • Are trials assessing the right outcomes? 
  • What's important for people affected by the condition?

One of the tools currently in prototype is a pioneering clinical trial simulator which researchers will be able to use to find the best design for their trials.

The meeting also highlighted a focus on discovering how digital data, such as that collected from wearable technology, can improve drug development and clinical trials.

Jill Gallagher, Clinical Development and Regulatory Manager at Parkinson's UK and Co-Director of the Critical Path for Parkinson's Consortium, said: 

"The Critical Path for Parkinson's aims to design tools which will be used to make multi-billion dollar decisions regarding drug development. The level of commitment at this meeting from all of the partners shows that everyone is working together to achieve this. 

"We need better treatments for the 145,000 people living with Parkinson's in the UK and this collaboration will help ensure new treatments reach people with Parkinson's faster."

Is 'big data' the key?

One way to improve clinical trials and speed up the search for desperately-needed new Parkinson's treatments may be looking at past clinical trials. Could existing information uncover clues?