Data-sharing breeds Alzheimer's progress

A 2003 venture to bring together the NIH, FDA, industry, universities and nonprofits is paying dividends for Alzheimer's biomarker research. There have been advancements in using imaging for early disease detection, and about 100 clinical studies are in progress for Alzheimer's. The Alzheimer's Disease Neuroimaging Initiative, as it is called, doesn't just raise money or conduct trials: one of the major goals when the group first set out in 2003 was to share information. All data on the projects is shared immediately, and anyone with a computer can access the information. No one company will benefit from the data.

"It's not science the way most of us have practiced it in our careers," University of Pennsylvania Alzheimer's researcher Dr. John Trojanowski tells the New York Times. "But we all realized that we would never get biomarkers unless all of us parked our egos and intellectual-property noses outside the door and agreed that all of our data would be public immediately."

By pooling data, the foundation has achieved far more than the industry could have done alone. And there's hope that this approach to Alzheimer's research will serve as a template for other diseases--like Parkinson's--that have stumped researchers. The Michael J. Fox foundation has already poured $40 million into a Parkinson's biomarkers project that is set to enroll U.S. and European patients.

- here's the New York Times report