New Ways of Thinking – NIH Summit Aims to Transform Alzheimer’s Disease Research

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) recently issued recommendations that provide a framework for a bold and transformative Alzheimer’s disease research agenda.
Developed at the recent Alzheimer’s Disease Research Summit 2015: Path to Treatment and Prevention, the highly anticipated recommendations provide the wider Alzheimer’s research community with a strategy for speeding the development of effective interventions for Alzheimer’s and related dementias.
These recommendations call for a change in how the academic, biopharmaceutical, and government sectors participating in Alzheimer’s research and therapy generate, share, and use knowledge to propel the development of critically needed therapies.
“Alzheimer’s research is entering a new era in which creative approaches for detecting, measuring, and analyzing a wide range of biomedical data sets are leading to new insights about the causes and course of the disease,” said NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins. “In these times of significant fiscal constraints, we need to work smarter, faster, and more collaboratively. These recommendations underscore the importance of data sharing and multidisciplinary partnerships to a research community that looks to the NIH for guidance on the way forward.”
More than 60 leading Alzheimer’s and chronic-disease experts from academia, industry, nonprofit organizations, and advocacy groups joined to develop the research recommendations. Convened by the NIH’s National Institute on Aging (NIA) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, with support from the Foundation for NIH, the meeting drew 500 participants on site, with another 500 participating via videocast.
The recommendations outline new scientific approaches to address critical knowledge gaps and propose ways to harness emerging technologies to accelerate treatments for people at all stages of the disease. They also identify infrastructure and partnerships necessary to successfully implement the new research agenda and strategies to empower patients and engage citizens. Overarching Alzheimer’s disease research themes include:
Understanding all aspects of healthy brain aging and cognitive resilience to inform strategies for Alzheimer’s disease prevention;
Expanding integrative, data-driven research approaches such as systems biology and systems pharmacology;
Developing computational tools and infrastructure in order to enable storage, integration, and analysis of large-scale biological and other patient-relevant data;
Leveraging the use of wearable sensors and other mobile health technologies to inform discovery science as well as research on Alzheimer’s disease care;
Changing the academic, publishing, and funding incentives to promote collaborative, transparent, and reproducible research;
Investing in the development of a new translational and data-science workforce; and
Engaging citizens, caregivers, and patients as equal partners in Alzheimer’s disease research.
“Determining the best path for progress in Alzheimer’s disease research has been as challenging and complicated as the disorder itself,” said NIA Director Dr. Richard Hodes. “These recommendations support a research framework that empowers all stakeholders — including those with the disease or at risk for developing it — to engage in the vital effort to find treatments.”
The recommendations will be used to update and expand specific milestones for achieving the prime research goal of the National Plan to Address Alzheimer’s Disease, which is finding effective therapies to treat or prevent Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias by 2025.
The NIA leads the federal government effort conducting and supporting research on aging and the health and well-being of older people. It provides information on age-related cognitive change and neurodegenerative disease specifically at its Alzheimer’s Disease Education and Referral (ADEAR) Center at www.nia.nih.gov/alzheimers.
The NIH, the nation’s medical research agency, includes 27 institutes and centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit www.nih.gov.