Next month, Discovery Park will be hosting a Neuroscience Bootcamp. The event, which takes place on Tuesday, 6 and Wednesday, 7 September will bring together thirty organisations at local, regional and national level, along with the Universities of Canterbury, Greenwich and Kent.

Its purpose will be to exchange ideas and information and to lay the groundwork for a Neuroscience Centre of Excellence where knowledge and experience can regularly be shared.

At Sandwich, where Discovery Park is based, we are building a specialism in neurological and optical research, and we are not alone. Important work into some of the most challenging neurological diseases is taking place across the country. However, as things stand there is no mechanism for connecting these clusters. This is what we believe must change if we are going to make progress on Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, which are taking such a toll on the health and wellbeing of growing numbers of people.

At the moment we simply do not know enough about the causes and pathways of some of the most serious neurological conditions and much more remains to be done before we have effective treatments. Yet despite the cost, both in human and economic terms, research remains chronically underfunded and we are not moving forward at speed.

Compared to cancer and oncology, neuroscience is lagging very far behind and that needs to change. Until backing for research into brain conditions and pain mechanisms matches that of cancer, then progress will continue to be slow.

Meanwhile the costs associated with neurological research are exceptionally high, which is why collaboration is essential. We need to share the risks and the rewards. This work is very expensive and no one company can do it on their own.

By creating a Neurological Centre of Excellence, Discovery Park will be able to facilitate lines of communication between the clusters that already exist around the country and help to translate academic projects into commercial opportunities. Already our investment arm, Discovery Park Ventures in partnership with Oyster Venture Partners, has backed a number of start-ups working in this field and we want to hear from more start-ups and spin offs looking for investment for proof of concept.

And we are also talking to Innovate UK, founders of the Oncology Accelerate Programme, about creating a similar programme for Neuroscience so that we can develop a new approach to the challenges of finding causes and treatments for neurological conditions.

Next month’s Bootcamp is the first step towards creating a joined-up network; one that will unite the neuroscience community, speed up research and discoveries and help to accelerate the development of new ways of tackling diseases affecting the brain. Places are still available and we hope that companies working in this field will seize the opportunity to work together in a meaningful way in order to make the breakthroughs that are needed to tackle some of the most vexing and costly of all medical problems. 

Martino Picardo, Chairman of Discovery Park