New database could accelerate research into brain-related conditions

The University of Leicester has co-launched the first database of its kind to help researchers look into the causes of neuro-degenerative diseases and their treatment.

The European Platform for Neurodegenerative Diseases (EPND) brings together 17 European multiple public and private sector organisations to share research studies and data into illnesses including Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and dementia, as well as other, rarer diseases.

The database provides a safe and accessible sharing platform for researchers to look at on-going studies and data by disease area, bio-sample availability, imaging and cognitive data.  

Professor Anthony Brookes, Professor of Genomics and Bioinformatics, who is leading the EPND project on behalf of the University, said: “The platform will provide high quality data for research purposes. This collaborative approach will undoubtedly help us to share vital information across relevant scientific communities.

“We have had to meet complex requirements in order to share this information safely, legally and ethically but the benefits of this far outweigh the challenges.

“This will accelerate research and innovation into debilitating and life-limiting conditions and is quite simply a platform for discovery.”

The collaboration means that data from nearly 160,000 research participants across Europe will be available to researchers across the world on the secure platform. It is hoped that this will add to the knowledge already gathered around neuro-degenerative diseases, with the hope of advancing our understanding and subsequent treatments.

Numbers of people being diagnosed with devastating and progressive conditions like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and related diseases are growing. It is estimated that 16.3 million EU citizens will have been diagnosed with a neuro-degenerative disease by 2050.

Work on EPND has been funded by the European Union’s Innovative Medicines Initiative, which aims to improve health by speeding up development and patient access to innovative medicines. 

Niranjan Bose of Gates Ventures, a member of EPND’s Project Management Team, said: “EPND is committed to revolutionising scientific breakthroughs in the effort to diagnose, treat, and prevent neurodegenerative diseases. This is a first step towards data and sample sharing, by increasing visibility and awareness of neurodegeneration research studies, to maximise the benefit and impact of neurodegeneration research.”

Researchers can use the database to search and filter information from elsewhere that could be useful in their own research, with a view to kickstarting new collaborations, initiating the sharing of clinical data and biosamples, and partnering on future funding applications.

EPND co-coordinator and clinical epidemiologist, Pieter-Jelle Visser, a clinical epidemiologist at Maastricht University, added: This way, researchers have a single location to easily search – and discover – the complete landscape of neurodegenerative disease cohorts across Europe, and beyond.”

For more information about EPND visit the website. Anyone interested in adding to the platform can register online.