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Launch of a drug discovery consortium to address the unmet therapeutic needs of people living with mental health conditions

The Psychiatry Consortium is a £4 million international collaboration between seven global pharmaceutical companies and two leading medical research charities, convened and managed by Medicines Discovery Catapult, to support high-value drug discovery projects that address the unmet therapeutic needs of people living with mental health conditions, including psychiatric symptoms associated with dementia.

over three years, delivering up to 10 high-value drug discovery projects
research institutions engaged in 75 countries worldwide
consortium partners including, seven global pharmaceutical companies and two leading medical research charities
rise in mental health conditions between 2007 – 2017

At the moment, too many people living with a mental illness are going without the effective help they need. There has been a dearth of innovation in drug treatments, with most drugs developed in the 1970s and ’80s and many associated with varying degrees of unwanted side effects. This Psychiatry Consortium is an important step in stimulating much-needed advances in the area. Throughout the process, MQ will ensure that people affected by mental illness are at the heart of the research funded.

Lea Milligan
CEO, MQ: Transforming Mental Health

Effective drug-discovery collaborations between academia and industry

The Psychiatry Consortium acts as a vehicle to bring together the international wealth of scientific knowledge in the academic community with the extensive drug discovery know-how of the industry members, to turn promising research into world-class drug discovery projects which identify novel solutions to address mental health conditions including psychiatric symptoms associated with dementia.

Mental health conditions have seen a rise of 13% between 2007 – 2017, and the two most common mental health conditions, depression and anxiety, cost the global economy US$1 trillion a year.

Similarly, dementia affects over 850,000 people in the UK and is now the country’s second leading cause of death, costing £26bn a year but only allocated 4.5% of the total medical research budget in 2016/17. These conditions have substantial effects on wellbeing, relationships, education, ability to live independently and can have devastating effects.

The lack of novel drug targets combined with the pre-clinical validation challenge and the high failure rate in clinical trials, has led to reduced investment in drug discovery and development in the last decade.

As a result, there have been no new effective types of treatment for psychiatric disorders for over 30 years. Most current treatments are ineffective with detrimental side effects, and finding the right treatment is typically a process of trial and error. Patients will not receive the genuine breakthroughs in treatment needed to improve their conditions without sustained research investment.

The Psychiatry Consortium comprises two leading medical charities, including Alzheimer’s Research UK and MQ: Transforming Mental Health and seven pharmaceutical partners Biogen, Boehringer Ingelheim, COMPASS Pathways, Johnson & Johnson Innovation, Lundbeck, MSD and Takeda, managed by Medicines Discovery Catapult and supported by the Wellcome Trust. Established in 2019, the Consortium brings together global knowledge and expertise in research, target validation, translation, and patient-centric approaches.

The Consortium facilitates new and necessary innovative research approaches to revitalise psychiatric drug discovery by strengthening academic-industry collaborations and has thus far launched four calls for research projects and engaged with over 400 research institutions in 75 countries worldwide. Collectively, the strategic partners aim to provide ~£4m in research funding over three years, delivering up to 10 high-value drug discovery projects. International collaboration means diversity of thought and approach, which can stimulate unique opportunities and exposure for UK business and implement benefits that can achieve worldwide impact.

The process provides a mechanism to ‘pull-through’ academic ideas. It validates them to industry standards, enabling their pre-clinical development and, ultimately, translation to the clinic. To date, the Psychiatry Consortium has funded two research projects, with a healthy pipeline of projects currently in development. The Consortium has presented at nine international research conferences, delivered six webinars with over 500 views, delivered two interactive workshops with global key opinion leaders and delivered one virtual symposium, with a total of 1,500 registrants.

This strategic collaboration signals tangible progress in changing the shape of UK innovation in medicines discovery. The Catapult believes that the future of medicines discovery has the patient at its heart. This Consortium shows that industry, academia and charities believe that too. The UK Government has prioritised addressing mental health, and Innovate the UK is playing its role in delivery. We share the Consortium’s vision and proudly support Medicines Discovery Catapult in its ongoing mission to support the sector by delivering multiple technology and process improvements.

Ian Campbell
CBO, LifeArc
Former Interim Executive Chair, Innovate UK

Medicines Discovery Catapult’s Psychiatry Consortium has brought together an international group of strategic partners with the single goal of validating novel targets for psychiatric disease and bringing new and effective treatments to patients, faster. The Psychiatry Consortium enables industry, academia and medical research charities to share knowledge and expertise for a common goal; fostering world-leading research that can be translated into new medicines for the benefit of society. This is precisely this kind of international collaboration needed to reinvigorate psychiatric drug discovery.

Jessica Lee
Head of Patient-Focused Partnerships, Medicines Discovery Catapult