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A Turning Point in Alzheimer's Disease – Reasons to be Optimistic

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 From Roy Twyman, MD, Vice President, Head of CNS Development, Neuroscience Therapeutic Area, Janssen Research & Development, LLC

There is good reason to believe that we’re entering a new age of research against the sixth leading cause of death in the United States – Alzheimer’s disease.  Extraordinary progress is being made in using genetics to better understand this devastating disease and develop diagnostics and treatments for it.  Unprecedented collaborative efforts among academic and industry researchers are propelling progress forward.  But more research needs to be done, and families with a history of Alzheimer’s disease are needed to participate in clinical trials and contribute their genetic information, which can be done anonymously.

During the past decade, a new research approach has emerged to better understand Alzheimer’s disease and to find ways to predict and stem its progress.  Scientists from industry, government and academia are working together and sharing information about the genetics of Alzheimer’s disease.  The National Institute of Aging (NIA) Genetics Initiative has played a significant role in encouraging research institutions to work together to recruit families and share information.  And thanks to several collaborative efforts of researchers in the United States and worldwide, DNA samples have been collected from tens of thousands of families with members who do and do not have late-onset Alzheimer’s disease.  Because of those efforts, a recent study identified 11 additional genes implicated in Alzheimer’s disease. Identifying those genes is just the first step, and this discovery will open new avenues for innovation and ways to target therapies.  If you or members of your family are interested in participating in Alzheimer’s research, a good way to start is to look for programs and opportunities at academic medical centers throughout the country or check for information about clinical trials on  The insights and innovations that come from joining these efforts will be the key to conquering Alzheimer’s disease.

At Janssen, we believe that the future of medicine is integrated care – where the entire care of the patient and the overall outcome are important.  “One size fits all” doesn’t deliver the best care, and that’s certainly the case with Alzheimer’s disease.  We are changing the way that we approach clinical development. This is why Janssen is working on diagnostics using genetics, because we want to target medications to the right people.

We also want to monitor people over time to understand their response to a medication.  Pharmacogenetics is the genetics of how drugs respond in certain individuals, and the paradigm of the future will be “the right medications for the right patients.”  That not only means knowing who is likely to respond to a medication, but also knowing which genetic factors may pose a safety risk for some people.  When we can identify these risks, we’re able to adjust clinical studies accordingly.  So once we identify all of the genes associated with Alzheimer’s disease and understand how they work, that information will tell us which therapies to pursue and which patients are appropriate for different trials.

We are in an incredible age.  Information about Alzheimer’s disease is gaining exponential force.  Academic, government and industry stakeholders are working together to advance knowledge about Alzheimer’s disease and these researchers and scientists need your help. We need data to bring this knowledge together, and if families with Alzheimer’s disease participate in clinical trials, I have every reason to believe that we will see therapeutics in our lifetime that will make a real difference in this devastating disease.

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