Doctor Calls for Alzheimer’s Boot Camps to Spur Drug Development

Alzheimers disease

It’s no secret that drugmakers have struggled to develop a therapeutic to treat or halt the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. Multiple drugs have failed in late-stage trials and some companies, such as Pfizer, have largely given up on the space.

While researchers have struggled in the lab with beta-amyloid and tau tangles, one organization believes that if Alzheimer’s scientists were required to meet patients who have been diagnosed with the disease that would spur research inspiration and motivation. Leslie Norins, chief executive officer of Alzheimer’s Germ Quest, Inc., has proposed nationwide Alzheimer’s “boot camps” of “experiential programs” to drive new developments. Norins said that most researchers in the Alzheimer’s field have not spent more than a few hours with patients. He said the researchers have “textbook knowledge” but lack realistic experience with how the disease mentally disables seniors.”

In his call for a boot camp, Norins said one reason for the lack of personal contact between researchers and Alzheimer’s patients is age difference. He said researchers are in their twenties and thirties, while Alzheimer’s patients are senior citizens.

Norins said he came up with the idea for a boot camp after the time spent in a senior center that provides care for Alzheimer’s patients. Despite the myriad of backgrounds that Alzheimer’s patients had, the disease rendered them “almost childlike,” Norins said. After watching the attendants care for the patients, Norins said similar exposure to the patients could “increase motivation for every Alzheimer's researcher and administrator across the country."

“It's time for Alzheimer's researchers and administrators to venture out of their ivory towers. We're going to try and convince the leading distributors of Alzheimer's research monies, both government and non-government, to set up ‘boot camp’ experiences for their grantees and staffs at respite care centers,” Norins said.

The time spent in the Florida care center wasn’t Norins’ first exposure to Alzheimer’s. There is a history of the disease in the family of his wife Rainey Norins. Both her mother and grandmother fell to Alzheimer’s.

In January Norins’ organization Alzheimer’s Germ Quest, announced a $1 million challenge award for the scientist who provides persuasive evidence that an infectious agent is the root cause of Alzheimer's disease. There is a three-year window for the challenge. Norins believes that the root cause of Alzheimer’s is bacterial and in the announcement pointed to some research that supports that theory. When making the announcement Norins said most researchers are “fixated on the safe old favorites” of beta-amyloid and tau.

"Hopefully, this challenge will help jump-start additional research interest globally in microbes,” Norins announced in January.

Norins issued his challenge about a week after Pfizer announced it was abandoning new research into Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. While Pfizer has stepped back from the space other companies are not giving up. Biogen, Denali, Eli Lilly and Johnson & Johnson are all continuing with programs.

This morning the University of Finland released a report that said the use of antiepileptic drugs is associated with an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Continuous use of antiepileptic drugs for a period exceeding one year was associated with a 15 percent increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease, the university said in a statement sent to BioSpace. University researchers found that the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia was specifically associated with drugs that impair cognitive function. These drugs were associated with a 20 percent increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease and with a 60 percent increased risk of dementia.

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