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Our Plan for Reinventing Alzheimer’s Disease R&D at UC San Diego

Opinion

Xconomy San Diego — 

When the late Dr. Leon Thal, renowned neurologist and chairman of the Neurosciences Department at the UC San Diego School of Medicine, first imagined a research network able to conduct clinical trials of new therapies for Alzheimer’s disease, it was an idea ahead of its time.

The degenerative condition was poorly understood, with no existing infrastructure for developing new therapies, let alone preventive measures or a cure. The Alzheimer’s Disease Cooperative Study (ADCS), co-founded by Dr. Thal and the National Institutes of Health in 1991, changed the course of Alzheimer’s research.

It has not been an easy road. Over the past quarter-century, ADCS at UC San Diego has conducted scores of trials, with thousands of participants testing dozens of promising therapeutics. Alzheimer’s is better understood, but effective therapies and a cure remain elusive. But this is why the ADCS exists. Success was never expected to come quick or simply. There have been and will be many setbacks along the way. Only a public research university like UC San Diego can invest the necessary time, expertise and commitment.

UC San Diego now seeks to reinvent ADCS in a time when the graying of the postwar baby boom means Alzheimer’s is even more pressing upon our minds.  Today, someone in the United States develops Alzheimer’s every 67 seconds. One in three seniors in the U.S. will die with it or another dementia. In every conceivable way, the reality of Alzheimer’s is growing.

ADCS is growing to meet the challenge too, adding more staff and resources, and gearing up for four new trials, funded by the National Institute on Aging, which are slated to begin over the next year. This is happening with the resolute support of UC San Diego Chancellor Pradeep Khosla and the university, and it is happening in very distinct ways.

First, a national search has begun for the next permanent ADCS director, who will be a global thought leader in neurosciences and specifically in Alzheimer’s disease, an unquestioned expert in both the latest research and the design and operations of clinical trials. I have already received unofficial job inquiries from some of the country’s finest Alzheimer’s researchers. ADCS deserves no less than the best.

Second, UC San Diego will innovate more, and more often. With advances in knowledge and technologies, there are new and better ways to conduct trials. They can be smaller, for example, more focused upon a single question, or upon a targeted cohort of patients. They can leverage tools that didn’t exist even a few years ago, including advances in imaging and biomarkers.  ADCS will be on that leading edge.

Third, ADCS will more thoroughly tap the … Next Page »

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