NIH summit yields recommendations for Alzheimer’s research
By Brad Stubenhaus
The National Institutes of Health Alzheimer’s Disease Research Summit 2018: Path to Treatment and Prevention, which took place in early March in Bethesda, Md., gathered experts from academia, government, industry, and nonprofit organizations for the purpose of synthesizing perspectives to create a “roadmap for an integrated, multidisciplinary research agenda.”
The recommendations presented, which were recently put forward, will help guide the diverse group of people working toward the ultimate goal of the summit: to treat and prevent Alzheimer’s disease by 2025.
This roadmap should enable a more concerted effort to that end. Someone characterizing a protein associated with Alzheimer’s, for example, may not appreciate the importance of placing “increased emphasis on underrepresented and minority populations” in studying risk, age of onset, and progression of Alzheimer’s, but gaining that awareness could broaden the scope of her research. Even grant reviewers, however expert, will benefit from a common framework guiding their feedback to applicants.
The summit also yielded a broader philosophical guideline: According to the drafters of the recommendations, “open science” is more likely to succeed than science driven by competing labs who share data only upon publication. The flip side of this — that competition motivates labs to move faster — may be valid, too, and some may contend that the open model is less realistic. There’s no question, however, that getting various perspectives from all corners and uniting through common objectives is a tremendous step in the fight against Alzheimer’s.
Brad Stubenhaus earned his M.S. in cell biology from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. His research background is in planarian pigment cell biology and brain organoids. He lives in Baltimore, Md., where he is a fundraiser for the ASPCA.