Work with the Parkinson's Virtual Biotech

As Europe's largest charitable funder of Parkinson's research, we invest in drug discovery and clinical trials to accelerate life-changing new treatments for people with the condition.

We’re working flexibly, creatively and collaboratively with co-investors, institutions and companies worldwide who share our vision to drive forward drug development and clinical trials.

We’re always looking for new projects and opportunities to drive forward better treatments for Parkinson’s, including both disease-modifying and symptomatic treatments.

Get in touch

Do you have an idea or a discovery with the potential to lead to a new treatment for Parkinson’s? Are you interested in bringing this to the clinic? We can partner with you to develop the most promising projects.

Email [email protected]

Our projects

  • A collaboration between the University of Sheffield, Keapstone Therapeutics and Parkinson's UK to develop KEAP1 inhibitors/Nrf2 activators
  • Developing molecules that increase the activity of genes to increase dopamine synthesis and boost the production of neuroprotective proteins
  • Developing novel mPTP inhibitors to safeguard the dopaminergic cells and slow progression of Parkinson's
  • Programme to identify and refine novel compounds that rescue mitochondrial function with reduced off-target effects
  • Project to discover brain penetrant modulators of a microglial cell-surface protein implicated in Parkinson’s progression
  • Programme to develop disease-modifying therapeutics, which restore lysosomal function and combat neurodegeneration in Parkinson’s and other related conditions
  • A phase 2 randomised controlled trial to investigate a novel serotonin 5-HT1A receptor agonist for the treatment of L-DOPA-induced dyskinesia
  • A 6-week pilot and 12-week randomised controlled trial to provide preliminary evidence for the safety and efficacy of cannabidiol (CBD) for the treatment of Parkinson's-related psychosis
  • A phase 2 randomised controlled trial to investigate whether ondansetron is safe and effective for treating hallucinations in Parkinson's and Lewy body dementia
  • A programme to create and prepare a new phase 2 randomised controlled trial to investigate the potential of device-delivered GDNF as a disease-modifying therapy for Parkinson's
  • New clinical trial to test a drug with potential to treat Parkinson's dementia
  • A multi-centre randomised double-blind placebo-controlled phase 3 study involving 330 people with Parkinson's (with and without GBA mutations) testing ambroxol over 2 years
  • A phase 2 randomised, double-blind controlled trial of an oral drug to reduce neuroinflammation in people with Rapid Eye Movement Sleep Behaviour Disorder who are at high risk of developing Parkinson's

Meet the team

Arthur Roach PhD, Director of the Parkinson's Virtual Biotech

Before joining Parkinson's UK, Arthur held several academic and industrial positions. Most recently as Senior Director, Neurodegenerative Diseases Research at Serono (now Merck). He is also a founder and Head of the Scientific Advisory Board of the Swiss-based biotech Chord Therapeutics.

Shona Clegg, Clinical Studies Portfolio Manager

As Clinical Studies Portfolio Manager, Shona manages the clinical trials side of the Parkinson's Virtual Biotech portfolio. Shona has developed a wealth of experience in CNS trials and brain imaging over the last 20 years in both academia and industry. She provides expertise in end-to-end services for clinical trials working with both pharmaceutical and biotech companies, and investigator-led trials from start-up to close-out.

Jan Kulagowski PhD, Drug Discovery Manager (Chemistry)

Having completed a NATO Postdoctoral Fellowship at Stanford University, Jan joined MSD’s Neuroscience Research Centre, working on a variety of projects, including those aimed at psychiatric and neurological conditions. He then moved to Argenta Discovery (now Charles River), gaining experience in oncology and immunology, as well as the contract research organisation sector. Having joined Parkinson’s UK in 2015, Jan helped set up the Parkinson’s Virtual Biotech, in which he evaluates new project opportunities and manages existing projects. Jan has 35+ years of drug discovery experience as a medicinal chemist and is author and inventor on 150 papers and patent applications.

Professor David Dexter, Director of Research

Professor in Neuropharmacology, with expertise in the pathophysiology of neurodegenerative conditions and drug development. David was previously Deputy Head of the Division of Brain Sciences, at Imperial College London. In 2002 he established the Parkinson’s UK Tissue Bank and served as the Scientific Director.

Iwona Ziomkiewicz PhD, Drug Discovery Manager (Biology)

Iwona joined Parkinson’s UK in September 2022 as a Drug Discovery Manager representing the biology specialisation. She brings experience in cell-based assays for in vitro pharmacology and translational research of small and large molecules. Iwona has a strong background in mechanistic biology with a track record of working in oncology and neuroscience therapeutic areas.

David Tickle PhD, Drug Discovery Manager (Chemistry)

David has over 20 years' experience across a number of Pharma companies with broad experience across multiple target classes including Ion Channels, Proteases and Kinases. Most recently he spent 14 years at LifeArc where he was a senior principal scientist with responsibility for medicinal chemistry, analytical science encompassing ADME/PK, phys chem profiling, and protein mass spectrometry.

Alan Naylor PhD

Following a long career culminating as Vice President and Director of Medicinal Chemistry at GSK, Alan is now an independent drug discovery consultant. He is a co-inventor of Serevent (salmeterol), a marketed drug for use in asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). As a consultant, Alan has provided scientific and strategic advice to a range of academic and industrial clients and has been a member of several scientific advisory boards including membership of Wellcome Trust and Cancer Research UK committees. He is also a co-founder and adviser to Pathios Therapeutics Ltd., an Oxford-based start-up focused on immunooncology.

Michael Rowley PhD

Mike has 35 years of drug discovery experience and has held senior medicinal chemistry leadership positions at Merck Sharp and Dohme (MSD) in the UK, Italy and Switzerland, and at AstraZeneca in Sweden. He led teams which discovered 3 marketed drugs (Isentress, Zapatier, Zejula), has been a member of governance bodies in large pharma, and has multiple experiences with CNS drug discovery projects. For the past 5 years he has consulted with biotech companies, universities and VC funds. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry, a Hero of the American Chemical Society and a member of the ACS Medicinal Chemistry Hall of Fame. He is an author on over 100 peer reviewed publications and inventor on over 40 patent applications.

John Davis PhD

John Davis is Professor of Pharmaceutical Discovery in the Nuffield Department of Medicine, University of Oxford, and a principal investigator within the Centre for Medicines Discovery.  As director of business development for the Alzheimer’s Research UK Drug Discovery Alliance (ARUK DDA), John is focused on building partnerships that capitalise on the strengths of the 3 drug discovery institutes within the ARUK DDA. In 2015, John joined the University of Oxford to establish the ARUK Oxford Drug Discovery Institute. The institute has developed a portfolio of early drug discovery programmes for Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, with an emphasis on genetically validated targets, and has forged multiple industrial alliances to accelerate project progression. John has 30 years of drug discovery expertise and has helped steer a number of drug candidates into development. 

Professor Manfred Auer

Following his PhD at the MPI for Medical Research in Heidelberg, Manfred spent 20 years at Novartis in which he progressed from Labhead to worldwide Executive Director for Innovative Screening Technologies in 2004. In 2009 he made was Professor for Chemical and Translational Biology at the University of Edinburgh, UK, where he stayed for 15 years. Manfred’s expertise lies in the development and application of drug discovery technologies with focus on computational and experimental quantitative biology. Manfred’s current work roles include memberships of boards of Directors and Advisory Panels, and consulting for biotech companies, charitable organisations and universities.

Ann Hayes PhD

Following her PhD, Ann spent 22 years at GSK and was appointed Therapeutic Director for CNS diseases in Drug Discovery in 1995. In 2001, Ann set up as an independent consultant, and has since co-founded 3 companies and sat on the board of several others.  She consults for small companies in CNS diseases and Drug Discovery, alongside advising charitable organisations including Alzheimer's Research UK.

Damian Crowther

Damian Crowther PhD FRCP

Having trained in clinical neurology in Oxford, Nottingham and Cambridge, Damian then lead a neuroscience research group at the Cambridge Institute for Medical Research and Department of Genetics, University of Cambridge. Damian moved to industry in 2015, becoming the Director and Head of Early R&D with AstraZeneca Neuroscience.  He is Entrepreneur in Residence at Cambridge Innovation Capital and Venture Partner at SV’s Dementia Discovery Fund.


Chris Swain

Chris Swain

Chris founded Cambridge MedChem Consulting in May 2006, where he remains Director. Prior to that he spent 20 years at Merck where he was a Senior Director responsible for a medicinal chemistry and the computational chemistry research group, He was the Chemistry Director of the project team that discovered and developed the NK1 antagonist Emend. His current activities include, providing medicinal chemistry and computational chemistry support to small and mid-cap sized Pharma companies, academic groups and start-ups. Several of these projects have resulted in molecules undergoing clinical studies. Chris has over 100 peer reviewed publications.