Overcoming the Public/Private Divide in Alzheimer’s Research

Sometimes, health problems get so big that all parties involved in the diagnosis and treatment business need to put aside personal ambition, academic glory and immediate company profits, and work together to find a solution. Somehow this has happened in a big way for Alzheimer's research. 

The NIH, the FDA, academic researchers and various medical imaging and drug development companies have been collaborating for the past 5 years on identifying biological markers for the progression of Alzheimer's Disease. By sharing, not just development funds, but also the data that comes out of the research, everyone is benefiting, not the least being the tens of millions who may be treated for Alzheimer's in the near future. 

The driving force behind this effort is the Foundation for the National Institutes for HealthBy sharing the energy, ideas, risks and benefits associated with this research, the partnership is able to confront challenges on a scale and complexity not otherwise possible. To wit: 

  • institutes and centers at NIH can pursue high-risk/high-reward research and advance their missions more quickly and cost-effectively
  • regulatory agencies can draw upon a robust body of research to inform domestic and international regulatory decision-making
  • the pharmaceutical industry can more efficiently develop new interventions, diagnostics, devices and therapies
  • academia can increase its access to federal and industry experts, technology and resources, and opportunities for research and training
  • advocacy organizations can access resources and research data that they could not obtain on their own
  • patients gain earlier access to improvements in diagnostics, preventive strategies, drugs, interventions and therapies

While I am not ready to embrace "a thousand points of light" as a new model for medical research, as I am sure neither are the the for-profit partners in this venture, I can't help but feel hopeful for other enlightened efforts along these lines.