Many members of the medical community — myself included — see the brain as one of the last frontiers of scientific discovery. Great strides have been made in how we approach neuroscience research and treatment for neurological conditions such as multiple sclerosis (MS), spinal muscular atrophy (SMA), and neuromyelitis optica spectrum disorder (NMOSD). And yet, brain health conditions – including mental, neurological, and cerebrovascular — are still the leading cause of death and disability worldwide.1 In fact, 15% of health loss globally is associated with brain health conditions that cause more disability-adjusted life years (406 million) than other conditions such as cancer (260 million) and cardiovascular disease (402 million). 1 We must fully understand the magnitude of the impact on those living with brain health disorders, their care partners, healthcare systems, economies, and societies to effectively tackle this burden.
Driven by data, propelled by partnerships
As a company dedicated to the scientific process — and as a researcher myself — we are driven by facts, datapoints and new discoveries. We have robust early-stage research and clinical expertise across neurological disorders, and our longstanding history gives us a unique understanding of the diseases, patients and treater communities we serve. Real innovation, though, requires changes in how we think about brain health and neurological disorders, how we approach science and how we support patients – and we know this cannot be done alone.
Roche and Genentech are partnering with leading minds in healthcare technology, telehealth, inclusive research and evidence-generation to identify barriers to meet our goal of preserving the health, independence and uniqueness of people living with neurological disorders — ensuring everyone not only receives a transformative treatment but also receives the same quality of care, regardless of their zip code, income or background. These new collaborations and expanding partnerships with organizations including PicnicHealth, Cleveland Clinic and the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) are all examples of collaborations designed to uncover insights and make connections to continue to push the boundaries of understanding in brain health.
Since 2018, we have partnered with PicnicHealth, a patient-centered medical records healthcare company that leverages state-of-the-art machine learning and human curation to create an easy-to-use online dashboard of a patient’s complete medical records, results and charts. Our collaboration started in MS, with an analysis of longitudinal, real-world clinical data to identify trends and better understand patient experiences. This partnership has grown to include disease data cohorts in Alzheimer’s and related dementias, Myasthenia gravis, Huntington’s and pan-neuroscience conditions. These data and insights will help us develop a more personalized healthcare approach for specific disorders as well as across neuroscience broadly, driving long-term change across the field.
We initiated a research collaboration with Cleveland Clinic in 2022 to better understand how people living with neurological conditions are utilizing telehealth. Neurology practices saw one of the highest uptake rates for ambulatory telemedicine (nearly half of total visits) during the early part of the COVID-19 pandemic. While a welcome evolution, higher utilization of telehealth during this uncertain time illuminated the need to identify potential disparities in awareness, access and use of telehealth among underserved minority patients, older and lower socioeconomic status individuals and people living in rural areas. Through this collaboration, we hope to improve our understanding of patient barriers to facilitate more equitable healthcare delivery — in person and digitally.
Roche and Genentech are proud to support IHME and its newly launched Brain Health Collaborative as a founding member. This multi-year effort will develop a view of the current and future burden of brain health conditions (mental, neurological and cerebrovascular) and create publicly available interactive research tools including the Brain Health Atlas. These global tools will measure the burden of brain health conditions over time and across geographies and monitor the economic impact of brain disorders, including analysis on total economic and social costs.
Purposefully following the science and staying the course
Exploring areas of the highest medical need — where treatment options have been historically unavailable or limited — underpins our approach to neuroscience research. The areas of greatest need often come with the greatest unknowns and risks to success, but we are steadfast in our focus to follow the science and stay the course in neuroscience research.
Although we’ve seen trials across the industry result in unexpected setbacks, the scientific insights gleaned have contributed to a better perspective on neurological disorders and how they progress. We’re working relentlessly to bring the next generation of treatment options to the clinic.
Pushing the boundaries of neuroscience — together
Collaborations such as these allow us to continue to follow through on our commitments. Our hope is to help people living with neurological disorders preserve their health, independence and what makes them uniquely who they are.
As we look ahead toward the future of our industry, partnership and collaboration are instrumental to advance understanding, elevate diverse perspectives and ensure we’re welcoming a broad group of organizations and sectors to help solve the most difficult challenges in neuroscience. We all have a part to play, and I’m eager, along with my colleagues at Genentech, to do ours — both in pursuing diagnostics and new medicines — but also by educating around the importance of brain health and nurturing resilient and responsive health systems to meet current and future challenges and reduce the burden for millions of people touched by neurological disorders.
Learn more about our commitment to brain health and neuroscience here.
1. Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, Brain Health Atlas. https://brainhealthatlas.org/