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GEN News Highlights : Mar 20, 2012

Alzheimer’s Association Puts $4.2M into Initiative to Speed Drug, Biomarker Trials

Money allows Dominantly Inherited Alzheimer’s Network to launch a Therapeutic Trials Unit in July.

The Alzheimer’s Association awarded its largest ever research grant, totaling nearly $4.2 million, to allow establishment of the Dominantly Inherited Alzheimer’s Network (DIAN) Therapeutic Trials Unit (DIAN-TTU). Based at Washington University School of Medicine, DIAN-TTU will leverage expertise built up by the DIAN, and establish the infrastructure required to speed the start of biomarker and drug trials in patients with early-onset, genetically based Alzheimer disease, before symptoms start.

“We want to prevent damage and loss of brain cells by intervening early in the disease process, even before outward symptoms are evident, because by then it may be too late,” explains DIAN-TTU director Randall Bateman, M.D., who is associate professor of neurology at the Washington University School of Medicine. “No single research center has sufficient numbers of people with dominantly inherited Alzheimer’s to conduct a large enough study to generate meaningful results. This underscores the value of the DIAN clinical studies.”

Effectively, the Alzheimer’s Association grant will allow the launch of DIAN-TTU in July, to function as the infrastructure. DIAN-TTU will work to expand the global registry of DIAN enrollees, direct preclinical studies, evaluate potential drug candidates, and design and launch international biomarker and prevention trials. The Alzheimer’s Association says 11 compounds have already been nominated by the pharma industry for inclusion in trials.

Established in 2008 with funding from the National Institute on Aging, DIAN is international network of 11 research centers, focused on studying rare, dominantly inherited forms of Alzheimer disease. Work reported last year by DIAN indicated that studies in 150 participants indicate that disease-related changes in brain chemistry may be detectable at least 20 years before the onset of symptoms.