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.
Our research is...
|...translating scientific findings into new treatments||ADAPTED, IMPRIND and PHAGO have made important discoveries about the function of the APOE gene, a well-established risk factor for Alzheimer's, as well as the key mechanisms involved in tau protein misfolding and neuroinflammation. They have translated their findings into new tools, assays and platforms for finding treatment candidates more quickly and cheaply. EQIPD is developing ways to improve the quality of evidence generation in preclinical research to support successful translation to the clinic, thus helping cutting down on the high failure rate in trials of potential dementia drugs.|
|…categorising dementia into different subtypes based on underlying biology||It is clear that AD and other neurodegenerative diseases should be considered not as single diseases but as syndromes. We need to be able to classify patients based on their individual quantitative biological traits. AETIONOMY, EMIF-AD and PRISM have identified groups of patients with the same neurodegenerative disease but who differ significantly from each other, taking us closer to personalised treatments.|
|…reducing the high failure rate of clinical trials of dementia drugs||Blood-based biomarkers of cognitive decline identified by EMIF-AD can improve patient selection for clinical trials, while PRISM has shown how passive data from smartphone apps and personal devices can assess social functioning in a more natural setting. RADAR-AD's digital platform can track changes in cognitive and functional abilities. See also: EPAD's platform for more efficient enrolment of participants, AMYPAD's work on the optimal use of β-amyloid PET imaging for more efficient and cheaper trials, and AETIONOMY ‘Virtual Patient Cohorts’.|
|…generating invaluable resources and infrastructure to feed future research||EPAD and AETIONOMY have left behind invaluable datasets, while biobanks from the project, as well as those from ADAPTED, are accessible to any researcher who needs them, and are delivering insights into Alzheimer's that will continue to generate data after the projects' end. EBiSC2 has made more than 900 human-inducible pluripotent stem cell (hiPSC) available to the research community and EPAD's Trial Delivery Centres is a connected and certified network of sites that aare qualified to run clinical trials in Alzheimer’s disease. ROADMAP created a sophisticated interactive data visualisation tool called the Data Cube that synthesises data sources from around Europe. See also the EPAD Academy and EQIPD training modules, which are helping train a new generation of researchers, and the Decision Tool from NEURONET, which helps researchers get ready for engagement with regulatory and HTA bodies.|
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.
PRISM is in talks with the EMA on the use of data from smartphones and wearables as biomarkers of social functioning in neuropsychiatric disorders.
The inaccessible brain