The University of Plymouth and University College London (UCL) in the UK have received a grant to support the development of a new multi-arm multi-stage (MAMS) clinical trial platform for Parkinson’s disease therapies.

The Edmond J Safra Foundation provided the £1.375m philanthropic grant to the universities.

A progressive disease, Parkinson’s causes brain degeneration that leads to tremors, stiffness and slow movements. Current therapies can relieve symptoms but do not address the disease course.

With the new platform, the universities aim to enable rapid evaluation of potential protective treatments that could slow or stop the progression of the disease in Parkinson’s patients.

The Accelerating Clinical Treatments for Parkinson’s Disease project will be named the Edmond J Safra ACT-PD Initiative. The universities will jointly lead the project, which is set to operate until 2023.

MAMS is a new trial design approach that facilitates simultaneous testing of several drugs and easy progress from early to late-stage clinical development.

Potential therapies are quickly removed and replaced at the early stage if no effectiveness is demonstrated.

The new Edmond J Safra PD MAMS Trial Platform can be used to initiate 12 drugs into a trial over five years. This process usually takes 40 years and ten times more patients compared with traditional protocols.

UCL Department of Clinical and Movement Neurosciences neurology professor Thomas Foltynie said: “Our existing process of ‘one drug at a time’ is far too inefficient, and it is high time that we had a platform capable of assessing multiple approaches simultaneously.

“This project will revolutionise the way we perform clinical trials of potentially disease-modifying drugs for people with Parkinson’s.”

The project will run in alliance with the UCL’s Medical Research Council Clinical Trials Unit, Parkinson’s researchers in the UK, Parkinson’s patients and their care partners, along with key Parkinson’s charities in the country.