Medical AI Award sets its sights on treating Parkinson's
A collaboration between Parkinson's UK and The Cure Parkinson's Trust (CPT) to identify new treatments for Parkinson's has been awarded the inaugural BenevolentAI Award.
Presented through a competition run with the Association of Medical Research Charities (AMRC), the award offers a selected charity AI-driven R&D support from BenevolentAI, one of Europe's largest private AI companies.
Applicants were asked to submit proposals which demonstrated how BenevolentAI’s technology could solve specific research challenges medical charities face. Parkinson’s UK, together with CPT will take advantage of BenevolentAI’s world leading healthcare knowledge graph, to conduct potentially breakthrough research into treating Parkinson’s. Set to become an annual occurrence, the BenevolentAI Award aims to support leading medical charities by offering the chance for breakthrough discoveries using advanced AI and machine learning technology.
Parkinson’s UK and CPT will leverage the BenevolentAI platform’s capabilities to reason, deduce and suggest entirely new treatments. Ambitious targets have been set by Parkinson’s UK and CPT with the aim of identifying at least three currently available medicines that can be repurposed to address Parkinson’s and two brand-new ways to treat the disease (novel drug targets). If successful, it would mark a significant advance in the number of options and targets available for further investigation.
The award application and any ongoing R&D work, were supported by Ian Douglas from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, who brings extensive experience in the use of linked databases and the identification of drugs for repurposing. Michael Johnson of Imperial College London will also provide support and guidance on gene network analysis, a technique which he has previously harnessed to identify repurposed drugs or novel drug targets for the novel treatment of refractory epilepsy.
Dr. Jackie Hunter, Head of Clinical Development at BenevolentAI commented: “If we are going to be able to make a breakthrough in Parkinson’s we’re going to need to take a different approach. Through this collaboration, we’re doing that by combining the charities’ extensive knowledge of the disease and our world leading knowledge graph platform. We’re extremely excited to see if over the next 12 months we’re able to identify new treatments that could reach patients rapidly.”
2017 marked 200 years since Dr James Parkinson first described Parkinson’s, a progressive degenerative brain disorder that affects 145,000 people in the UK, a figure that is predicated to double over the next 50 years as life expectancy increases. There is still no cure.
Professor David Dexter, Deputy Director of Research at Parkinson’s UK, added: “We’re thrilled that our application was successful and are excited to see what this partnership will produce. People with Parkinson’s have waited too long for better treatments and repurposing existing drugs holds huge potential to accelerate our work towards a time when no one fears Parkinson’s.”
Dr. Richard Wyse, Director of Research and Development at The Cure Parkinson’s Trust, added: “It is wonderful to have the opportunity to work with the skilled team at BenevolentAI and Parkinson’s UK to identify potential new treatments for Parkinson’s. At CPT we are dedicated to bringing new disease modifying treatments – including known drugs as well as novel compounds – into clinical trials as we leave no stone unturned in our hunt to find ways to slow, stop and reverse Parkinson’s. By harnessing the phenomenal technology capabilities at BenevolentAI we and Parkinson’s UK have the opportunity to widen our search for better therapeutics, verify our findings, and initiate fast-track development.”