Advancing Alzheimer’s Research

Guest blog by Tom Wallace, Senior Director of Global Advocacy & Professional Relations at Lilly

Today, over 8.7 million people in Europe are living with Alzheimer’s. We know that the shadow of the disease extends beyond just patients to encompass family members, caregivers, and ultimately the world as a whole. Addressing this disease through exploring early diagnostics, treatments, and a cure will help to alleviate both the emotional suffering that impacts so many families as well as the huge economic burden that this disease places on all of our society.

Public awareness of Alzheimer’s has increased in Europe, and it’s great to see such momentum behind the 31st International Conference of Alzheimer's Disease International, happening now in Budapest, Hungary.

It is both the advances in research and the remaining barriers that I’m looking forward to discussing at the ADI Conference. I’ll be on the Advancement in Alzheimer’s Research panel to provide insight on the barriers and challenges for the industry in Alzheimer’s innovation and discovery. Later in the day I’ll present on the shared risk factors and social determinants across dementia and other NCDs with a focus on early intervention and behavior change through timely diagnosis.

The global medical community has set a goal to treat Alzheimer's by 2025. However, barriers remain as we focus our efforts on a new generation of diagnostics and treatments. As we continue to deepen our understanding of Alzheimer’s, we need to simultaneously invest in clinical tools to better detect, predict, and monitor disease progression, as well as anticipate treatment response.

All of us in the Alzheimer's community should be extremely grateful for the patients and families who are participating in clinical trials as they are integral to pushing innovation forward. Given the urgency and difficulty which remains for people to participate in trials, we need to bolster efforts to increase the quality, quantity, and ease of access to trials, and educate caregivers and health care providers about patient resources.  Time is precious and an important part of the equation to getting treatments to people and families with Alzheimer's.

Improvements are needed to ensure sustainability of drug development, including faster development and regulatory review, and additional patent life. Financing mechanisms must also be put in place to contribute to increasing the speed and diversity of discovery. On the care side of the equation, we also need to do a better job as a society of screening for and diagnosing Alzheimer’s by way of education and increasing understanding of diagnostic tools.

These challenges may appear daunting, yet we've seen global collaboration work wonders across many health and social issues.  Our collective impact and capabilities can and must make a difference.