Alzheimer's Research and Clinical Trials

PhRMA Alzheimer’s Forum to Focus on Partnerships and Clinical Trials

09.19.13 | By Jennifer Wall

There have been a number of media reports over the last week about the challenges surrounding Alzheimer’s research. From a piece in the Asbury Park Press about a woman’s plight to reduce the risk of her daughter developing Alzheimer’s to a series on NBC focusing on  promising research currently underway by scientists in academia and the biopharmaceutical industry, there is much to be hopeful for. 

The Asbury Park Press story mentioned an Alzheimer’s Prevention Registry in Phoenix, Arizona, that  is helping clinicians recruit pre-symptomatic patients for clinical trials in order to better understand the disease and determine if earlier interventions can be more successful in treating Alzheimer’s. The registry and others like it across the country could help unlock the Alzheimer’s puzzle.

NBC’s cross-network series showcased some of the trials that have been able to find enough participants and the hope that they provide to the more than 5 million Americans afflicted by this devastating disease.  Another ray of hope can be found in the fact that biopharmaceutical companies are currently researching and developing treatments that can slow the progression or perhaps even cure Alzheimer’s disease (there are nearly 100 medicines in in the biopharmaceutical pipeline for Alzheimer’s and related dementias). One segment in particular focused on clinical studies being conducted by some of our academic research partners to better understand how and when the deterioration of the brain occurs, while another focused on industry efforts and the risky nature of Alzheimer’s drug development given the amount of failures we’ve seen over the years.

One of the studies, conducted by the Knight Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center at Washington University, found that the brain changes associated with Alzheimer’s disease in those genetically predisposed to developing it can begin 20 to25 years before a patient becomes symptomatic – five years prior to what was previously thought. It also identified the changes in the brain that develop before a diagnosis. Both findings build upon existing knowledge of the disease, offering important insights for biopharmaceutical scientists and providing a potential timeline for optimal treatment and possible targets for that treatment.

The research detailed in the NBC segments stresses the importance of working together across the health care ecosystem to help alleviate the Alzheimer’s crisis and, like the Asbury Park Press piece, underlines the instrumental role that pre-symptomatic patients play in helping us unlock the puzzle.

PhRMA, in partnership with the Alzheimer’s Association and the Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation, is hosting a day-long summit on October 23rd bringing together leading scientists from academia, industry, patients and policymakers to discuss these issues and determine ways we can better work together to address challenges in Alzheimer’s research to help patients live longer, healthier lives. A particular focus will be on challenges and opportunities around pre-competitive partnerships and clinical trial enrollment.  Stay tuned to the Catalyst and follow @PhRMA for more details about the event and how you can participate.

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