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WASHINGTON — Is seeking a cure for Alzheimer’s disease hopeless? Is Biogen’s recent decision to repurpose a failed Alzheimer’s trial an elaborate parlor trick? And what about Pfizer’s decision to walk away entirely from neuroscience entirely?

The unanswered questions in the field of Alzheimer’s research can make the average observer’s head spin.


So STAT’s executive editor Rick Berke pressed a panel of experts on those questions and more Tuesday in Washington as part of the Milken Institute’s Future of Health Summit. They were quick to emphasize the “tremendous hope” in the field of Alzheimer’s research, but the conversation also underscored the need to go back to basics — to support young scientists testing innovative new ideas, and to continue to research and improve our understanding of the basic functions of the brain.

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  • Jeffrey Borenstein’s comment “It took 10 years to get to the moon. And this is a lot more complicated” is more than a good one-liner; it may be the central issue in the emergence of products for Alzheimer’s. In 2015 Beierlein et al., published an analysis of Alzheimer’s product development titled “Patterns of Innovation in Alzheimer’s Disease Drug Development: A Strategic Assessment Based on Technological Maturity.” Using an analytical model for the maturation of basic science, Beierlein et al. observed: “This analysis suggests that AD drug discovery has followed a predictable pattern of innovation in which technological maturity is an important determinant of success in development. Quantitative analysis indicates that the lag in emergence of new products, and the much-heralded clinical failures of recent years, should be viewed in the context of the ongoing maturation of AD-related technologies. Although these technologies were not sufficiently mature to generate successful products a decade ago, they may be now.”

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