This year, after over 10 years with The Cure Parkinson's Trust (CPT), Dr John Scadding steps down as Chair of the Research Committee and is succeeded by Professor Alasdair Coles, a lecturer in Neuroimmunology at Cambridge University.

Dr. Scadding said:

My role has certainly provided considerable challenges, but the opportunity to work with clinicians and neuroscientists of such brilliance and distinction, together with the CPT staff, has been incredibly rewarding. The sense of purpose, camaraderie and enthusiasm in CPT is second to none, and I am proud to have played a part in the evolution and development of the processes that underlie the evaluation and funding of the key research that will eventually lead to a cure for Parkinson’s. I step down now, after 10 years, with enormous gratitude to everyone at CPT for involving me in the pressing quest to find a cure; for the opportunity to work alongside leaders in PD research; and for allowing me to witness the incremental and vital steps in PD research towards finding a cure.

In 2008, three years after the charity was founded, the trustees recognised the early success of fundraising and awarding grants for research required the establishment of formal and transparent processes of research governance. Following a successful meeting for people with Parkinson’s (PwP), organised jointly with CPT and The Royal Society of Medicine (RSM), the then Academic Dean of the RSM, Dr Scadding, accepted the invitation from the late Tom Isaacs, Helen Matthews and Dr Richard Wyse to help form a Research Committee.

"Early recruitment was quite straightforward: we simply asked the best and all agreed to serve!"

Recognising the need for a balance, the committee comprised clinician-scientists active in PD research, neuroscientists and PwP, in addition to CPT’s Director of Research & Development, Dr Richard Wyse and Helen Matthews, Deputy CEO. 

As a neurologist, but without any direct personal involvement in PD research, Dr Scadding became the independent Chair of the committee. Processes were quickly established for inviting applications for funding, then thorough and fair discussion in committee, external peer review and provision of clear advice to CPT trustees about those applications which merited funding. Regular six monthly progress reports from Principal Investigators became mandatory, giving CPT the ability to closely monitor its funded research.

In 2010, with processes in place, CPT successfully applied for membership of the Association of Medical Research Charities (AMRC) thus gaining recognition of CPT’s high standard of research governance. Since then, membership of the Research Committee has expanded, with additional representation of clinical trials and drug development expertise, and high-level non-PD clinical neuroscience input. The committee includes two key CPT employees in addition to Dr Wyse and Helen Matthews, notably Dr Joy Duffen and recently, Dr Simon Stott, Deputy Director of Research. 

The Research Committee strongly supports CPT’s flagship International Linked Clinical Trials (LCT) initiative and is responsible for the detailed evaluation of those trials prioritised by the LCT Committee and jointly funded by CPT and the Van Andel Research Institute (VARI) in the US. Throughout Dr Scadding's 10 years, the focus of CPT’s funding has been steadfastly to fund research towards finding a cure and this clear focus remains the hallmark of CPT. The emphasis is on funding translational research, but important basic research, judged to be likely to lead to clinical translation within five years may also be recommended for funding.

Dr Scadding is succeeded by Professor Alasdair Coles (left), a lecturer in neuroimmunology at Cambridge University and an honorary consultant neurologist to Addenbrooke’s and Hinchingbrooke Hospitals. Professor Coles has been a member of the CPT Research Committee for a number of years and he steps into his new role of a now globally established facilitator of research to find a cure for Parkinson's.

Professor Coles was invited to be Chair because he is independent of the world of Parkinson’s research - his research has involved the development of treatments for multiple sclerosis (MS). Professor Coles has experience of the whole pathway of clinical drug development from novel drug trials in humans, repurposed drugs already licensed to treat other conditions; he has run phase 3 trials and chaired the NHS England committee determining how MS drugs should be used in the NHS.

Professor Coles was so impressed, particularly with the Linked Clinical Trials partnership programme, he has encouraged the MS Society to develop a similar programme. He has a close relative with Parkinson’s disease.

With thanks to Dr John Scadding and Professor Alasdair Coles for their contributions to this article.