Why we’re committing £800,000 to plan a new GDNF trial

The earlier groundbreaking clinical trial proved inconclusive. So we’re launching a new company tasked with planning a possible new trial.

A groundbreaking new treatment

GDNF stands for glial cell-derived neurotrophic factor. It’s a naturally-occurring protein that is produced inside the brain. It supports the survival of many types of brain cells, including the cells lost in Parkinson's.

We were the major funder of a pioneering trial that tested whether boosting levels of this restorative protein could slow, stop or reverse the progression of Parkinson’s.

Results inconclusive, but promising

In February 2019, we got the results. They were inconclusive, but there were some signs that the treatment may have started to regenerate participants’ dopamine-producing brain cells.

Tom Phipps, who participated in the GDNF trial, said:

"My outcome was as positive as I could have wished for, I feel the trial brought me some time and has delayed the progress of my condition."

The trial participants have always believed in GDNF’s potential. So have we and the other organisations involved in the trial. 

Some participants tell us they’re still experiencing the benefits, years on from undergoing this experimental therapy. We've been working with them since the end of the trial.

Together, we want to make sure we’ve explored every option.

A partnership with people with Parkinson's

The GDNF participants group are committed champions for the treatment and the need for further investigation. 

Paul Jackson Clark, Director of Engagement, says:

“The unwavering passion and determination of the GDNF participant group has ensured that the potential of GDNF, and the role of patients in research, has never been forgotten. They’ve tirelessly campaigned, fundraised and shared their experience with us, enabling us all to get to this monumental point. 

“We now have the chance to see if we can find a life-changing new treatment that people with Parkinson’s desperately need. There are still plenty of obstacles but today’s announcement gives us the opportunity to move things forward together.” 

Determined to find a way forward

We’ve been working with the companies, researchers and participants involved to find a way forward.

This week we are launching a new company, Vivifi Biotech, tasked with leading the planning and preparations needed to design a new trial. This will build on the learnings from the previous trial, and put the wellbeing of participants at its centre, thanks to the insights given to us by the GDNF participant group and other people with Parkinson’s.

Through our drug development arm, the Parkinson’s Virtual Biotech, we’ll invest up to £800,000 over the next 2 years. We hope this will lead to a new clinical trial, and ultimately a life-changing new treatment for people with Parkinson’s.

Find out more