The Government-funded UK SPINE initiative has been set up to focus on the country’s ageing population, investigating the complex pathways behind ageing and ensuring we can find new therapies to delay the onset of diseases that reduce our quality of life in later years.
The number of people over 75 in the UK today is one in 12, according to government statistics. By 2040, that figure is projected to rise to one in seven – with implications including increased demand on health and care services. Meanwhile, Public Health England’s Health Profile for England 2019 report found that, on average, people in England will live between a fifth and a quarter of their lives in poor health. In other words, our ‘healthspans’ are not keeping up with our lifespans. The UK government has therefore set the challenge of ensuring people can enjoy an extra five years of healthy, independent life by 2035.
UK SPINE brings together multi-disciplinary expertise from a range of Higher Education Institutions, industries and charities, together with strong NHS partnerships overseeing a series of nationwide flagship research projects focusing on different aspects of ageing, with work now restarting in many settings following the coronavirus lockdown.
The first flagship project under UK SPINE to be launched is spearheaded by Medicines Discovery Catapult and the University of Dundee’s Drug Discovery Unit, alongside the University of Oxford and University of Birmingham. It will establish a new drug discovery model designed to speed up the development of innovative treatments for ageing and its associated diseases and will result in a functioning and successful ageing therapeutic development pipeline that enhances and knits together the UK’s capabilities in this emerging area.
The ‘porous’ model design means organisations such as university research teams or pharmaceutical companies will be able to enter the pipeline quickly and easily at different points, making the process more collaborative and reducing financial risk for industry in particular.
This new ‘porous’ pipeline will encourage participation in ageing-related pharmaceutical discovery and make it more efficient – from identifying targets for new drugs that lie in the common underlying pathways of ageing, to deploying treatments clinically.
The emphasis will be on developing treatments aimed at tackling multimorbidities (multiple co-occurring conditions) in an effort to improve quality of life and reduce polypharmacy (the use of multiple medications concurrently).