What's the problem?
Dementia affects millions of people in Europe and the number is continually rising. There is no cure currently available for people with dementia, while treatments for symptoms work only for some people and for a short period. This is not for want of trying; pharmaceutical companies spent years, and upwards of EUR 10 billion, looking for an effective treatment for Alzheimer’s disease, without success.
What is IMI doing about it?
IMI has over 20 projects in this area accounting for around 10 % of IMI’s budget. Most focus on Alzheimer’s disease, the most prevalent cause of dementia, but we also have projects on other dementia causing conditions such as Parkinson’s and Huntington’s disease. The projects cover the whole spectrum of medical research and drug development, and patients play an active role in many projects, bringing their knowledge and experience of their disease to the table.
Given the complexity of the brain and nervous system, it is unsurprising that many of our projects are unravelling the role of specific genes and proteins in disease. Other projects are exploring ways of identifying people at greatest risk of developing dementia and on how to improve diagnosis, management and development of novel treatments. We also have projects applying a ‘big data’ approach to progress in the area.
An SME partner in the IMI PHAGO project filed a patent application with the European Patent Office for an improved protocol for generating high numbers of human microglia, implicated in Alzheimer’s disease, from induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs).
The PHAGO project identified two genes that might have a significant impact on Alzheimer's disease development and progression.
The MOPEAD project research identified the best mix of methods for spotting early cases in the population and directing them towards services that can diagnose, educate and treat them.
AMYPAD researchers showed that a ‘visual read’ of PET scans using radioactive diagnostic tracer flutemetamol can go beyond simple yes-or-no determination of the presence of Alzheimer’s hallmark protein.
The inaccessible brain