A recent note in Science Insider describes the failed clinical trial of a monoclonal against β amyloid. The failure of bapineuzumab is a blow to Alzheimer’s patients, their families, and to the pharmaceutical companies that have made major investments in the underlying research and clinical trials. Addressing chronic disease in the CNS is clearly a challenging and risky proposition. The failure of massive phase III studies such as the bapineuzumab trial is a key driver of the escalating costs of R&D in big pharma. This raises the question of whether the current model of pharmaceutical R&D is able to address diseases like Alzheimer’s or whether novel strategies are needed. Individual company-specific research programs and clinical trials may be nearing obsolescence. New approaches involving a higher degree of cooperation between industry, government and academia may be essential to address the difficult challenges of multifactorial chronic diseases. Drug development in the precompetitive space is being increasingly considered as an alternative strategy, but the concept needs further evolution.
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