Alzheimer's Association : Jay Thompson. Our vision is a world without Alzheimer's




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Video title: Alzheimer's Association : Jay Thompson. Our vision is a world without Alzheimer's
Released on: January 18, 2013. © PharmaTelevision Ltd
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In this episode of PharmaTelevision NewsReview, filmed at BioPharm America in Boston, Fintan Walton talks to Jay Thompson, Senior Associate Director Corporate Initiatives at the Alzheimer's Association
Objectives of Alzheimer's Association
Fintan Walton:
Hello and welcome to PharmaTelevision News Review here at BioPharm America, in Boston, in 2012. On this show I have Jay Thompson, who is Senior Associate Director at the Alzheimer's Association, welcome.
Jay Thompson:
Thank you.
Fintan Walton:
Jay, you are actually in the, your role within the Alzheimer's Association is within the corporate initiatives, but before we probe into that side of you could you give us an introduction to the Alzheimer's Association and its objectives?
Jay Thompson:
I will be delighted to, the Alzheimer's Association is a national voluntary health organization, we are the largest Alzheimer's organization based in Chicago, Illinois, although we also have 75 chapters scattered across the country which are there to ostensibly serve patients and caregivers, through some really quite wonderful workshops and programs. We have been around for 25-years, we are there to serve our mission which is to end Alzheimer's disease by advancing the science, providing care and support for those affected by the diseases and their caregivers and also to try to prevent this disease through a healthy brain initiative. So first of all we try to advance, increase concern and awareness through a number of channels principally through using our celebrities. We have some a great group of celebrity champions who will go on morning talk shows and talk about the latest news, breaking news, so for instance David Hyde Pierce or Maria Shriver will go on Good Morning America and talk about the association and late breaking news. September is World Alzheimer's Month, so it's go purple entire month of September, we are happy about that and so that's lots of awareness events in both communities and also in the companies across the United States. We also publish facts and figures every year. This is downloadable from our website, and these facts and figures will highlight the cost of the disease, both on the state and federal level in terms of unpaid caregiver hours and total cost of the disease and why that's going to have such a large impact on the healthcare of the United States. So through those kinds of channels we are raising awareness about the disease as well as the Association is a place to turn to if you've received a diagnosis, what's the next step, we are the next step, because we can help support you there.
Jay Thompson's perspective: Approaches to improved therapy for Alzheimer's
Fintan Walton:
Okay, so obviously let's just remind ourselves that Alzheimer's is one of the most debilitating diseases out there, obviously it affects the patient but it also affects the family members as well, so from your observation through the Alzheimer's Association, there are obviously a number of approaches to therapy and linked to therapy is the diagnostics, the diagnosis of Alzheimer's itself, so could you, from your perspective, where are we in getting closer to a cure or improved therapy for Alzheimer's?
Jay Thompson:
Right, and I've heard this remark before of that we are, sort of where cardiovascular disease was twenty years ago, we don't have a good biomarker like a cholesterol test and we don't have a therapeutic intervention yet, what we do have are some symptomatic agents, one of them is Aricept and also Exelon, so those are symptomatic but they don't stop the progression of the disease. Although there are a lot of companies that are working on both therapeutic interventions as well as biomarkers, we've made great advances on both areas over the past even eight-years, we are getting really close. This year the FDA approved a tracer that can be injected into the brain that will attach to some of this amyloid plaque, which they think is one of the hallmarks of Alzheimer's disease, so we can now in a PET scan see if there is plaque buildup in that, you may be at risk for developing Alzheimer's disease, but more importantly it will preclude other diseases and say that it's certainly not this but it's probably going to be this, so we are getting close, we don't, so it's a battery of test now for a physician or a neurologist to make a determination.
Jay Thompson's role in corporate initiatives
Fintan Walton:
Right, and obviously there are a range of different approaches that have been taken to look at ways in which to cure or improve the therapy for Alzheimer's, your role is in corporate initiatives within the Alzheimer's Association, could you tell us a little bit about that role?
Jay Thompson:
Sure, so I actually was trained as a chemist and then as a polymer scientist in Graduate School, so I come from a science background, but I went over into the business side a number of years ago and so in my role there, my portfolio of corporate relations is with the pharmaceutical, biotech, and diagnostics industries, and so I am delighted to say that I get to see across a very large landscape and it's one of the reasons I am at this conference, because I get to see emerging biotech's and what they are working on. So I would say there is lots of progress, people are not diminished by some of the failed trials they are still pushing on, they see this as a very large population that needs to be served here and so great progress has been made and in fact when there are these large failed trials we learn a lot from those trails and it helps then in the succeeding trials that these are the things, the lessons that we learn, these are the way that we should now approach the clinic trial design, or these are the biomarkers that we should be looking for.
Fintan Walton:
Right, because obviously you are looking at the progression of the disease in all these patients anyway, so there is a lot of information that could be mined by your organization and obviously other pharmaceutical companies, but is that distributed enough, is that, is there a sufficient amount of access to that type of data?
Jay Thompson:
I think so. Certainly we reported at our international conference which I spoke about earlier so that gets worldwide coverage both in print and electronic media. I mean millions and millions of hits to that conference and we have a really robust PR team that that does disseminate that. So we are certainly there, certainly through our website and to the extent that we can get information from the sponsors of the clinical trials up on our website posted in a timely manner. We do this help disseminate that in a very clear unbiased fashion, so that is one thing that we have to maintain as an unbiased third party, interested third party, to make sure that information gets out to our constituents.
FDA regulations, Clinical trials and understanding the basis of disease
Fintan Walton:
Right, so one of the observations obviously with trying to do clinical trials with Alzheimer's is it's there those sort of trials are expensive, they require a large population of patients and so forth, so I suppose you are at the nexus between trying to make sure that ultimately patients get the right therapy, but also the obstacles that exist possibly through the FDA regulations and so forth, so is there a change in the way in which therapy can actually be or these clinical trials that can be done accelerated?
Jay Thompson:
I wouldn't say accelerate, I would say that they are.
Fintan Walton:
More efficient?
Jay Thompson:
They are being perhaps more efficient, but are more importantly it's because of these failed trails we are starting to see that if you are running clinical trials on mild to moderate cohorts it may be too far long in the disease progression for your therapy to have an effect, and so the feel, that you can just feel it shifting now towards finding clinical trials and designing clinical trials for a mild cohort, even presymptomatic cohorts, and so how do you find those patients, well we've stepped in, we are nothing if not conveners to bring the right parties together to talk about how do we revise the diagnostics criteria to help find those patients that are suitable for clinical trials that are designed for people very early in the disease, we want to catch it before it has a really irreversible diminishing effect on patients, so catching it earlier in the disease is paramount now.
Fintan Walton:
Right, and of course the important thing here is understanding the basis of the disease, so that's the fundamental research not necessarily finding a product but understanding the underlying causes of the disease, where are we in that as a society, as a world population?
Jay Thompson:
Well again I think we are learning a lot from these trials and so for a long time I think most companies research was focused on amyloid plaques, so beta amyloid which forms these plaques in the brain seem to be the hallmark of Alzheimer's disease, so that was the primary target for a number of therapeutic interventions and it still remains to be that way with monoclonal antibodies and some secretase inhibitors that are in clinical trials now. But I would say there are other targets that people are looking at, so they are looking at tau, they are looking mitochondrial health, they are looking at genomics and proteomics so it's really opened up, so a lot of different approaches and we welcome those all, we say we don't care where the cure comes from and it may turn out to be a multiple of therapies that will be necessary to really have a stop the disease progression.
Alzheimer's Association's Initiatives, conferences and round table events
Fintan Walton:
Yes, now the other thing that you do is you run one of the largest conferences on Alzheimer's, could you tell us what that's about, and what's have been achieved at those particular, at that particular conference, and the other initiatives that you are taking to try and bring researchers together?
Jay Thompson:
Sure, so this past year, I will even go back a year before that to 2011, we held our international conference in Paris and we were fortunate to have President Nicolas Sarkozy, who was the president of France at that time, was a absolute champion for Alzheimer's disease in France, and France was one of the few countries in the world that had a national plan for Alzheimer's disease, and it's a magnificent plan, in fact we have used that plan as a model here to drive a national plan through congress, it was signed by President Obama this year, so now the United States has a national plan for Alzheimer's disease and now we are tasked with implementing that plan. But the international conference talked about how we were going to implement that plan, but again there is, we probably had over a thousand abstracts submitted for this, the conference this year in Vancouver, so many of those turned into poster sessions, or oral sessions, or parts of plenaries, again to talk about how are we advancing the science. So it was all the latest breaking science and again for therapy, for imaging, and for a diagnostic advances in Alzheimer's.
Fintan Walton:
Right, the other thing that you do, you have this round table event as well, could you tell us about that?
Jay Thompson:
Sure, so I want to, again we are a national organization, but all of these science platforms that I am talking about are international in scope. So the sponsors there come from really around the world and but we have that research roundtable, which started a little over eight-years ago with really four member companies, if you can believe that, and it was designed to remove common obstacles to advancing the science and research and so that was its mission, and remains its mission to this day, we've grown to 26 companies, so that's emblematic of how the field has exploded and how many companies who have invested in Alzheimer's disease, and what's particularly interesting about the our research roundtable is it's each of these 26 member companies can send four researchers to each of the meetings. We invite the regulatory agency, so both FDA and EMEA attend as our guest, we want them to hear about these obstacles and how can we bring this to, or help patients with the disease and so they thankfully attend each of these meetings, but what's, so we hold that in Washington, DC for that very reason, we want them to come, and then what's also particularly interesting about the roundtable is that we don't design the agenda, it's these agenda topics are proposed and voted on by the members of the roundtable. So it's whatever is cutting edge, what is forefront that needs to be talked about is the topic for the research roundtable meeting. So the vote on is very democratic process and so that's a really quite wonderful thing and so we bring in, once we have that topic we will then convene a subcommittee, who bring in speakers literally from around the world who are the experts in that field on the cutting edge. And then the last thing I will say about the roundtable is that it's great to have these little small meetings that are in a darkroom with slides, but there are then real outcomes from the roundtable. We've convened work groups that need to further address some of the outcomes of those roundtable meetings, so this revised diagnostic criteria that's now on the forefront that came out of a research roundtable meeting, changing clinical trial designs, looking at new scales for clinical trials, all of these came out of the research roundtable and people are then taking that and moving that forward. So it has real outcomes and then eventually a year or later we publish them in our journal. So it's one of the best conferences out there and importantly what I hear after every one of these meetings, and I've been doing this for eight-years now, people walk out of the research roundtable and they go 'wow, that was the best meeting we've ever had', and I hear that after every meeting.
Jay Thompson's views on finding new cure for Alzheimer's
Fintan Walton:
Right, well it just emphasizes how important an organization like the Alzheimer's Association is, because it pulls these various initiatives together, helps to coordinate the whole research area of Alzheimer's, which is not just simply one organization, one company trying to develop a drug but it's connecting all of that together. So in your position, both generally as the Alzheimer's Association but also as you as an individual, where does that leave us, our society, in terms of ultimately finding new cure for Alzheimer's, are we, how close are we now to overcoming that disease?
Jay Thompson:
We are a lot closer than we were eight-years ago. We are a lot closer than we were a year-ago, we are a lot closer than we were six months ago, we have learned an enormous amount about the disease but I am not going to kid you this is a really tough disease to figure out and then try to get a therapy across a blood brain barrier to stop the progression of the disease it's really one of the hardest things in the world for this the researchers to tackle. So again we are a lot closer, we've learned a lot more, there is some breaking Phase III trials early next year that I hold out a lot of promise, because of that they've had spectacular results in Phase II, and again there are various approaches now that we see in Phase II that are now moving into Phase III, so we are not undaunted by any means, and I think we are again we are really close to finding biomarkers and some of these imaging agents are going to help us immensely in the next couple of years.
Fintan Walton:
And obviously understanding the fundamental basis for disease is still a key goal?
Jay Thompson:
And it's very complex, and I think where we know a lot more now than we did.
Fintan Walton:
Jay, thank you very much indeed for coming on the show.
Jay Thompson:
Well thank you for having me.
Fintan Walton
Dr Fintan Walton is the Founder and CEO of PharmaVentures . After completing his doctoral research on the genetics of cell proliferation at the University of Michigan(US)and Trinity College (Dublin, Ireland), Dr Walton gained broad commercial experience in biotechnology in management positions at Bass and Celltech plc (1982-1992).
Jay Thompson
Senior Associate Director
At the time of recording this PTV interview Jay Thompson serves as Senior Associate Director Corporate Initiatives at the Alzheimer's Association.
PharmaVentures
PharmaVentures is a corporate finance and transactions advisory firm that has served hundreds of clients worldwide in relation to their strategic deal making in the pharmaceutical, life science and healthcare sectors. Our key offerings include: Transactions / deal negotiations; Product / technology valuations; Deal term advice; Due diligence & expert reports; Strategy formulation; Alliance management; and Expert opinion for litigation/arbitration cases. PharmaVentures provides the global expertise to ensure our clients generate the highest possible return on investment from all their deal making activities. We have experience of all therapeutic areas and can offer advice on both product and technology commercialisation.
Alzheimer's Association
Alzheimer's Association is the leading voluntary health organization in Alzheimer's research, care and support. The Alzheimer's Association's mission is to eliminate Alzheimer's disease through the advancement of research, provide and enhance care and support for all affected, and reduce the risk of dementia through the promotion of brain health. The Alzheimer's Association's vision is a world without Alzheimer's.