Dubbed TREAT-NMD (Translational research in Europe - assessment and treatment of neuromuscular), the five-year network is the first of its kind in Europe, bringing together a total of 21 partner organisations from 11 countries. They include charities and companies that will work alongside doctors and researchers in the field.
Neuromuscular diseases (NMD) is a very broad term that encompasses many inherited or acquired diseases and ailments that affect the muscles or their nervous control. It is estimated that come 200,000 people suffer in Europe from these conditions, many of which can result in long-term paralysis or disability. Some forms of NMD can even be deadly, like Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA), which is the most common genetic cause of childhood fatality. No cure as yet has been found for SMA.
TREAT-NMD aims to develop best practice in all areas of NMD research and development, in particular by ensuring that the route of a drug candidate from the laboratory bench to an approved medicine is as efficient as possible. To do so, the network is establishing close links with pharmaceutical companies.
The network will also develop a clinical trials coordination centre in Germany, which will provide advice on how to conduct trials, as well as offer training to those participating in the network.
According to Professor Volker Straub, professor for NMDs at Newcastle University and the coordinator of TREAT-NMD, researchers, doctors and patients alike have long awaited the launch of the network. 'This is something that should have been established 10 or 20 years ago, but we were not ready and we did not have the cutting-edge therapies,' Professor Straub told the BBC. He noted that the clinical trials would not have been possible before this network, since they need to be multi-national in order to have sufficient patient numbers.
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