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World Health Day 2012: Advancing Alzheimer’s Disease Research through Collaboration

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 By Paul Stoffels, MD, Worldwide Chairman, Pharmaceuticals

Each year on April 7th, the World Health Organization celebrates World Health Day.  This year’s focus is on aging and health, which includes diseases and conditions that affect aging populations, such as Alzheimer’s disease.  In recognition of that focus, I wanted to share some of the work that Johnson & Johnson is doing and the partnerships we are engaged in to make progress against this disease.

This is a critical time for people facing Alzheimer’s disease (AD).  Approximately 31 million men and women worldwide have this devastating brain disease and estimated costs associated with treatment and care through 2050 are $20 trillion. Yet delaying the onset by as little as five years would reduce this cost to society by a third.  The emotional toll of Alzheimer’s is devastating.  AD is second only to cancer as the most feared health condition in the United States.

Progress in Alzheimer’s disease research during the past decade is culminating in a significant body of knowledge that could lead to earlier, more accurate detection of the disease and ways to slow its progression and possibly even prevent it. This scientific window of opportunity is prompting a diverse group of experts in AD to work together on unique ways to harness this new knowledge.

The Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia Leadership Council was founded by the New York Academy of Sciences (NYAS) with support from the One Mind for Research organization as well as several companies, including Johnson & Johnson. It is focused on using its collective wisdom to develop a plan and policy recommendations over the next year to accelerate the transfer of basic scientific discoveries into new methods for the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of Alzheimer’s disease.

The Leadership Council consists of scientists and stakeholders in Alzheimer’s disease research and development, including top academic experts; key leaders in the pharmaceutical, biotechnology, information technology and diagnostic industries; and representation from government agencies, including the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, as well as non-governmental research organizations such as the Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation.

In addition to sharing knowledge and identifying innovative funding models, the Leadership Council will encourage innovative thinking by including organizations traditionally outside the AD research and development boundaries, for  or example, IBM and GE.  Promising young researchers also will be identified and welcomed into the alliance.

For Johnson & Johnson, working on this project  is an important way to marry our commitment to Alzheimer’s patients and our strong belief that we can make significant progress against this disease, and do so cost-effectively, by collaborating with great minds in the public-private sector. Our goal is to build a common foundation for research and development that includes a clearer understanding of the causes of Alzheimer’s disease and how to target the disease mechanisms, and the development of better tests to measure disease progress and whether therapies are having a meaningful impact.

This is a critical time for the science of Alzheimer’s disease. Brain science is expanding rapidly with new technology and new knowledge. But at the same time, many companies are discontinuing their CNS pipelines as costs of R&D continue to increase.  At Johnson & Johnson, we maintain our long-standing commitment to neuroscience research, and are currently have many ongoing projects and partnerships to further innovation in this therapeutic area.  We believe that the time is right to bring together the best minds in Alzheimer’s disease to overcome silos and use our collective expertise to break the barriers to progress in Alzheimer’s disease.

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