Alzheimer’s Leaders Talk Research in D.C.

Last week, the U.S. Senate passed a proposal to increase the National Institute of Health’s (NIH) budget. This increase includes an additional $245 million directed at Alzheimer’s research and development and comes just a few months after Bill Gates announced a $30 million investment focused on early diagnostics.

These announcements represent an encouraging movement bringing together the public and private sector in their commitment to fighting Alzheimer’s disease. For the 5.7 million Americans living with this disease, an investment in Alzheimer’s research is always a welcome next step.

It also begs the question: where will the future of Alzheimer’s research take us?

A new analysis from PhRMA, Alzheimer’s Medicines: Setbacks and Stepping Stones, examines the challenges Alzheimer’s researchers face but also explores this question of the future.

The report found that there were 146 unsuccessful attempts to develop medicines to treat or prevent Alzheimer’s disease between 1998 and 2017. During the same period, only four new medicines were approved to treat the symptoms of Alzheimer’s.

While there were 37 unsuccessful attempts for every success, those 37 attempts became stepping stones toward progress.

“A failed experiment is only one that does not give you more information. These aren’t failures because we are still learning so much about the brain. They are putting us on the road to pursue progress together,” said Phyllis Ferrell, vice president, Global Alzheimer’s Disease Platform for Lilly, in the report.

As we look to the future, biopharmaceutical companies are currently working on 92 potential treatments for Alzheimer’s and other dementias – but we can’t do it alone.

This past Monday, leading experts came together in Washington, D.C. to discuss both the setbacks and stepping stones of Alzheimer’s research at The Atlantic’s screening of the acclaimed documentary Turning Point. Speakers included Ferrell, Mark Mintun (Vice President, Pain and Neurodegeneration Research and Development, Lilly), and a separate panel featuring James Keach (Director, Turning Point).

Throughout the evening, the discussion returned again and again to the importance of partnership. Lilly stands firm in our commitment to Alzheimer’s research, but we need allies to make real progress. Policies that invest in research and development – like the recent proposal for NIH funding – give biopharmaceutical researchers the boost they need to find treatments for this devastating disease.

Turning Point - Official Trailer from PCH Films on Vimeo.

In Turning Point, filmmaker James Keach brings us into the world of these medical researchers struggling to find a solution. After decades of perseverance, scientists are on the brink of a breakthrough that could revolutionize Alzheimer’s disease. The film brings to life those setbacks, while featuring the exemplary work of the government officials, researchers and industry leaders who work together on the final frontier of medicine.

We’ve been researching Alzheimer’s here at Lilly for 30 years. Although Turning Point illustrates a setback along our journey – just one of those 146 setbacks over the past 20 years – we won’t stop searching for the next groundbreaking discovery. Thanks to strong partnerships between industry, researchers and government, we’re closer than ever to finding meaningful treatments.

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