On the seventh day of Christmas MND research gave to me: Seven research strategy themes

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“On the seventh day of Christmas MND research gives to you… our SEVEN research strategy themes”

It’s New Year’s eve, a time to look back and celebrate on 2014 and our MND research achievements. It’s also a time to look to the future; in 2015 we will be funding new MND research in line with our research strategy.

Our 2010-2015 research strategy focuses on seven key themes.

1) Identifying the causes of MND

The exact cause of the majority of cases of MND is still unknown. Therefore identifying the causes is our first step in understanding MND and developing future treatments.

In 2014 we identified two new inherited MND genes and also announced funding for the UK Whole Genome Sequencing project to better identify the rarer genetic factors involved in causing the disease. Read more.

2) Create and validate new models

Once we identify a genetic cause of MND, we need to find out how this gene causes MND. Animal and cellular models help us to find out how the gene affects the motor neurones and how this causes disease in a complex animal system.

In 2014 our UK MND DNA Bank samples were approved for wider MND research into the disease, allowing researchers to use the samples to develop new stem-cell derived motor neurone models to study the disease in the lab. Read more.

3) Identify disease markers

A disease marker is a biological fingerprint, specific for MND, which can be used to develop a diagnostic test and better monitor disease progression. An effective biomarker would also enable us to better monitor clinical trials, identifying promising drugs earlier.

In 2014 two Association-funded researchers announced that their joint research had identified a potential biomarker for disease progression in MND that could be detected by means of a simple blood test – light chain neurofilaments. Read more.

4) Improve clinical research and care management

Healthcare research has a real impact on quality of life, improving care practice and better managing the disease.

In 2014 the TONiC quality of life study began recruiting people living with MND in the UK to take part, asking for detailed information about quality of life. This study is still recruiting people to take part. Read more.

5) Developing the research workforce

We want the brightest minds working on MND, developing future leaders in the research and medical field to help us achieve our vision of a world free from MND. This was the idea behind the Lady Edith Wolfson’s Clinical Research fellowships.

The Association is committed to funding four research fellowships. These include Dr Johnathan Cooper-Knock (University of Sheffield) who is using DNA bank samples to better understand the C9orf72 inherited MND gene and Dr Martin Turner (University of Oxford) who is continuing his Biomarkers in Oxford (BioMOX) project.

6) Facilitate information flow

Sharing information as quickly as possible between researchers enables research to continue forwards without slowing down. To speed this up our Open Access policy states that all our research grants awarded from 2011 should be made freely available via Europe PubMed Central. Find out more.

This means researchers around the world can access the paper quickly and easily, speeding up the sharing of knowledge between researchers in the field. The symposium also encourages this sharing of information, and since 2012 the abstracts (or research summaries) from the event are published online in line with our Open Access policy. View the abstracts.

7) Strengthening our partnership and influencing abilities

By partnering with other organisations, we can add the Association and people living with MND’s voice to future research priorities.

The Association is a partner in the palliative and end of life care priority setting partnership (peolcPSP). In 2014 we asked our MND family to have a say in future funding priorities in this area and in early 2015 we’ll find out what these priorities are and how the Association can get involved. Read more.