Scientist gets his mind around Alzheimer’s

It’s not known what causes the disease or how to cure it. And the stakes have never been higher. But one European neuroscientist is leading the charge to uncover new treatments for this neurodegenerative disease.

The world’s population is ageing. Indeed, the average life expectancy in the UK is increasing at a rate of more than five hours a day, every day.

With an ageing population comes such chronic age-related neurodegenerative diseases as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, which represent an enormous and increasing disease burden to society. Indeed, by 2013, the incidence rate for Alzheimer’s disease is forecast to be 0.98 percent, representing 7.4 million newly diagnosed patients per year. By mid-century, estimates suggest there will be more than 100 million patients worldwide.
While there’s no doubt the last few years have thrown up some novel therapeutic approaches to the treatment of Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Huntington’s, Multiple Sclerosis, stroke and various other neurodegenerative diseases, the available Alzheimer’s drugs only treat the cognitive symptoms - and their level of efficacy is regarded by some authorities as not providing cost effective therapy.        
According to Eric Karran, Chief Scientific Officer Neuroscience at Johnson & Johnson, the challenge for both the academic and pharmaceutical communities is to discover and develop novel drug targets.
“I think our industry is in a lot of trouble at the moment. New drug candidates are failing trials. Old drugs are the subject of lawsuits. The industry is accused of having insufficient concerns about the safety of its products while being urged by specific patient groups to take more risks to develop medicines for them. Patents are expiring on successful drugs, meaning revenue for many companies is about to fall off what is darkly referred to within the industry as the ‘patent cliff’,” Karran was reported as saying.
“If the pharmaceutical industry had known what this looked like, we would never have started working on it.”
It’s a subject Karran will be keen to expand upon at the Next Generation Pharma Drug Development Europe Summit 2011 which takes place from 5-7 April 2011 at the Park Hotel, Bremen, Germany.
This closed-door summit, hosted by GDS International, features some of the leading voices in the European pharma drug development sector, including Phillipe Van Der Auwere, Global Head of Safety Risk Management at Roche; Kalpana Merchant, CSO Translational Science at Eli Lilly; Mark Fiddock, Head of Quantitative Biomarkers at Pfizer and Harsukh Parmar, Global Head of Early Clinical Development at AstraZeneca.
Along with reduced attrition rates, other key topics for discussion include the use of biomarkers in drug development, effective streamlining of clinical trials and optimisation of patient recruitment strategies.
Next Generation Pharma Drug Development Europe Summit 2011 is an exclusive C-level event reserved for 100 participants that includes expert workshops, facilitated roundtables, peer-to-peer networks and co-ordinated meetings.

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