Tyneside consultant says backing of Doddie Weir's foundation has seen a 'sea change' in Motor Neurone Disease research

Retired rugby ace Doddie Weir
-Credit: (Image: Dumfries and Galloway Standard)

On what would have been Newcastle Falcons legend Doddie Weir's 54th birthday, a leading neurologist said the rugby star's legacy had seen a "sea change" in Motor Neurone Disease research on Tyneside.

The former Scotland and Lions international set up the My Name'5 Doddie Foundation after being diagnosed with the progressive neurological illness in 2016. Doddie died at 52 in late 2022, but the charity in his name continues to raise cash and support research into MND.

The trials supported have included those taken place in Newcastle. With a £500,000 boost for trials around the UK announced to mark Doddie's 54th birthday on July 4, Dr Tim Williams from the Newcastle Hospitals Trust paid tribute to the support his team had received from the charity.

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Dr Williams is a consultant neurologist in the city. He said: "The support we have received has been absolutely fundamental to a sea change in MND trial conduct and activity in Newcastle. It’s been a great thing and I only hope such support continues and might reasonably be rolled out elsewhere. I think this is a highly effective and tangible use of funds."

Clinical trials into motor neurone disease (MND) have received a £500,000 boost from a charity founded by late rugby legend Doddie Weir on what would have been his 54th birthday.

The foundation announced on Thursday that the £500,000 will support sites across the UK to deliver MND trials by funding the time of clinical staff. The trials aim to speed up the search for effective treatments in a bid to find a cure for the devastating condition, which affects around 5,000 people in the UK.

This is following more than £3m which has been invested in trail centres to recruit staff. So far, the charity has committed more than £11m towards MND research, and a further £2m to support patients. There is another £6m earmarked for research before the end of 2024.

On Doddie's birthday this year, fans are encouraged to wear tartan as a tribute. Jessica Lee, director of research at the My Name'5 Doddie Foundation said: "When Doddie was diagnosed in 2016, there were few MND clinical trials running in the UK. Since then, there has been significant progress and an increased investment in MND trials.

"Today, the landscape is very different – there are many clinical trials running nationwide. However, despite the increasing number of trials, not all centres are currently able to deliver them at pace due to a lack of specialised staff with dedicated time to spend on MND projects.

"Doddie was passionate about the need for more MND clinical trials to give newly diagnosed people hope and purpose, and to accelerate the search for effective treatments."

Jessica said the new funding would "make a real difference" to the foundation's long-term aim to end MND.

The foundation's support for projects in Newcastle has included a £250,000 which funded a pioneering trial looking for drugs to help treat MND. The idea has been to test if medications currently used for other conditions can have an impact on slowing the progression of the illness.

For more information about that trial, visit www.mnd-smart.org.