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Clinical trial launches for new schizophrenia drug

27 February 2023

Professor Simon Ward

A potential new treatment for schizophrenia developed by Cardiff University’s Medicines Discovery Institute is entering the first phase of a clinical trial.

The drug - MDI-26478 – is designed to target specific receptors that play a key role in brain health.

Cognitive decline is a core element of schizophrenia and current treatments fail to treat this effectively. The Cardiff team expects MDI-26478 to enhance cognitive performance, focused initially on schizophrenia.

The drug has been invented by the MDI team and this study marks a major milestone, completing the ‘bench to bedside’ journey.

Professor Simon Ward, Director of Cardiff University’s Medicines Discovery Institute, said: “We are immensely proud of the achievement of the Cardiff team. To take a compound from initial discovery through to clinical studies is the dream of many life science researchers.

“In the UK about 1 in 6 people will need treatment for mental ill health during their lifetime. Schizophrenia is a poorly treated condition and about 1 in 100 people will suffer an episode of schizophrenia. We hope that once trials are complete, our drug will help patients manage these episodes and offer a completely novel treatment for this poorly served community.

Developmental drugs go through several stages of clinical testing before they are available for patients, but we hope to have initiated an exciting leap forward in the way we will treat schizophrenia in the future.”

This project has nucleated existing healthcare and drug development expertise within South Wales to accelerate the investigation of this drug. The clinical study will run in Merthyr Tydfil, at Simbec-Orion's MHRA Phase I Accredited Unit. Neuroimaging studies will take place in tandem at Cardiff University’s Brain Research Imaging Centre (CUBRIC), and neurophysiological screening and monitoring will be provided by The Science Behind, a Cardiff-based Clinical Trial Research Service.

Professor Simon Ward added: “This project demonstrates that, by combining academic excellence with commercial organisations within the South Wales region, it is possible to translate scientific discoveries within university laboratories into the clinic, where they have the potential to transform the lives of patients.”

The research and clinical study have been funded by The Wellcome Trust. Participants for the trial will be recruited directly through Simbec-Orion.

The Medicines Discovery Institute is the leading, university-based, CNS drug discovery group in Europe, delivering modern drug discoveries to improve treatments for neurological illnesses. Grounded in the academic & clinical excellence of Cardiff University, the team combines profound insight with industry-standard drug discovery. A robust pipeline of novel drug projects stretches from early drug screening through to human clinical trials, run at Cardiff. The Institute is led by Professors Simon Ward & John Atack.

Cardiff University Brain Research Imaging Centre (CUBRIC) is a world-leading centre for measuring pharmacological effects with magnetoencephalography (pharmaco-MEG) and MRI. CUBRIC hosts cutting-edge brain scanning facilities and is an internationally renowned site for innovation in neuroimaging methods and best practice.

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