“It’s a time of promise,” says Michael F. Murphy, M.D., Ph.D., chief medical and scientific officer at Worldwide Clinical Trials. The National Institute on Aging, part of the National Institutes of Health, reports over 5.5 million Americans may have Alzheimer’s, a disease that slowly ruins a person’s memory and cognitive skills.

Innovating studies

Dr. Murphy was a lead on some of the earliest industry sponsored studies for the treatment of Alzheimer's disease.

“Since the ‘70s, there’s been an explosion in how we characterize the disease clinically,” says Dr. Murphy. “We understand the clinical presentation so much better now, with better insights as to disease mechanism, and this enables us to design clinical studies more appropriately.”

Scientists have identified two abnormal protein buildups in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients: beta-amyloid “plaque” buildup between nerve cells and “tangles” of tau, another protein. Both are implicated in the destruction of brain cells.

Dr. Murphy’s company, Worldwide Clinical Trials, recognized for its long-standing leadership in central nervous system disease research, facilitates clinical trials with the mission to bring life-changing therapies to market. He says the biggest innovation in Alzheimer’s research is linking all the data collected, including genetic contributions, cognitive testing, brain scans, measurements in blood and cerebral spinal fluid and more.

“More data collection tools are available now than ever before,” says Dr. Eric Perakslis, chief science officer at Datavant, a healthcare technology company that partners with Worldwide Clinical Trials and is focused on linking data to support clinical research.

Encouraging outlooks

Dr. Murphy says there’s a lot of exciting research happening in the field, including studies in pre-stages and late stages of these brain disorders.

Animal and human research is more sophisticated than ever, and he’s hopeful that big data collection will help lead to new treatments, prevention and, ultimately, a cure.

“There likely will be multiple concurrent therapies targeting different aspects of the illness to prevent Alzheimer’s disease progression,” he says.