The European Prevention of Alzheimer’s dementia (EPAD) Initiative is a collaborative research initiative to improve the chance of successfully preventing Alzheimer’s dementia and to better understand early aspects of Alzheimer’s disease before dementia develops.
The 5 year EPAD programme is part of the Innovative Medicines Initiative, a joint undertaking between the European Union and the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations, EFPIA.
EPAD will establish a European-wide register of 24,000 participants, of which 1,500 will be invited to participate in a trial to test new treatments for prevention of Alzheimer’s dementia.The members of the EPAD initiative today announced the start of a novel collaboration between academic and private sectors to test innovative treatments for the prevention of Alzheimer’s dementia.
Previous attempts to bring new drugs for Alzheimer’s disease to the market have been disappointing despite a high level of investment. However, the realisation that Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive disorder and that early intervention may be more effective has led to research efforts being focused on prevention. The goal of the initiative is the prevention of dementia in people with evidence of the disease (such as biomarker abnormalities as identified by specific tests), who still may have little or no complaints or clinical symptoms.
“EPAD is part of a global initiative that will make a fundamental difference to the understanding and management of Alzheimer’s disease in people with very early or no symptoms at all. This could be a game-changer. It is only possible because of the absolute commitment of academics, industry, policy makers and the public to work hand in hand to defeat this global threat”, said Prof Craig Ritchie, EPAD Co-coordinator and Professor of the Psychiatry of Ageing at the University of Edinburgh.
New tools and methods now allow the identification of patients in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease. This creates an opportunity to have new treatment options investigated in clinical studies early on.
A difficulty however remains with the large number of patients and study sites needed to confirm a therapeutic effect within a limited span of time. In contrast to several pharmaceutical companies and academic institutions pursuing this in isolation, a joint effort clearly has advantages: the identification and referral of the concerned patients is accelerated and several treatment options can be tested rapidly within one same trial.
Therefore, EPAD aims to develop a platform using existing information from national or regional patient cohorts or register studies, which have already identified potential patients. Through EPAD, the undertaking of better, adaptive, multi-arm proof of concept studies for early and accurate decisions on the ongoing development of drug candidates or drug combinations is facilitated.
“Preventing the development of dementia in biomarker-positive people would be a fantastic step forward in our fight against Alzheimer’s disease. The EPAD and its novel trial concept will hopefully help speed up the drug discovery progress and bring us closer to this ambitious aim”, said Jean Georges, Executive Director of Alzheimer Europe.
All data collected from the cohort and trial will become publically available for analysis to improve disease models in the pre-dementia phase of Alzheimer’s disease.
“This project has numerous advantages over current approaches. These include the excellent pre-trial characterisation of subjects to inform selection and reduce screen failure, the establishment of the highest possible quality study sites across Europe, the rapid decision making on the likely success of a drug (or combination of drugs) in subsequent confirmatory trials as well as access to a shared placebo group.”, said Serge Van der Geyten, EPAD Coordinator and Director for Neuroscience External Affairs at Janssen Pharmaceutica NV.
About Alzheimer’s disease and dementia
Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive degenerative disease which causes loss of neurons in the brain. The symptoms eventually and inevitably manifest as Alzheimer’s dementia which impacts cognition, function and behaviour, becomes progressively worse over time and cannot be reversed. There are 7.7 million new cases of dementia globally each year, suggesting one new case every four seconds. There were an estimated 44.4 million people with dementia in 2013 and this number is estimated to increase to 135.5 million by 2050. Currently approved treatments may temporarily stabilise or slow the worsening of symptoms, but do not alter the course of the disease. Attempts to bring new drugs to market for the treatment and prevention of Alzheimer’s dementia have been disappointing despite massive commercial, public and academic investment of time and resources.