Report proposes revamping Alzheimer's R&D

The number of drug failures in the Alzheimer's field has been piling up disproportionately compared to successes in recent years, and the New York Academy of Sciences is hoping to change that. The organization is proposing a more streamlined, efficient path for Alzheimer's drug development.

"Progress in developing new therapies has been unacceptably slow, and so we must rethink how Alzheimer's research is carried out so that we can accelerate our understanding of what causes this complex disease," said New York Academy of Sciences President and CEO Ellis Rubinstein in a statement.

An interim report released by the academy at the nonprofit's Alzheimer's Disease Summit this week makes a number of recommendations for Alzheimer's research and addresses how to speed up discoveries starting with the preclinical end.

The report recommends greater collaboration in the form of data-sharing arrangements between academic researchers and industry to increase the likelihood that companies will be able to replicate academic studies.

"This could lead to more novel therapeutic approaches and targets entering the clinical development pipeline. Greater diversity in the pipeline does not necessarily imply less risk for any one drug candidate, on average. Rather, to the extent that greater diversity implies less correlation among the outcomes of different candidates, it does imply that the probability of all candidates failing should be lower," the report says.

In its report, the academy proposes that translational research be conducted in a precompetitive commons through public-private partnerships to increase the odds that preclinical research will make its way to the clinic. These public-private partnerships would be modeled after projects like the Structural Genomics Consortium at the Universities of Oxford and Toronto, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute's SMARTT Program or the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases' clinical and preclinical resources for researchers. Such partnerships would bring together resources from governments, academia, industry and patient advocates to co-invest in Alzheimer's research and drug development.

Finding new, dependable disease markers to predict the progression of Alzheimer's disease is also a major goal of the academy. Better biomarkers could help physicians match different patients to individualized treatments that are more likely to be effective.

A final version of the report will be published in the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences in early 2014.

- download the interim report (PDF)
- here's the New York Academy of Sciences press release