Neuroscience Trials Australia CEO Dr Tina Soulis has traversed the globe attending conferences over the past several months, connecting with established and emerging leaders from the sector. From large-scale international industry events, such as BIO, to more niche and specialised meetings, including the Neurotech Investing and Partnering Conference, Tina has heard about and discussed the latest health innovations and most exciting investment opportunities in neuroscience research. Throughout this patchwork of different conferences around the world and across several axes of the drug and medtech development timeline, a string of recurring topics has revealed itself- a strong pattern of trends. Here, we briefly unpack what Tina sees as the three hottest trends in neuroscience research. This is Part I of a three-part series.
The identification of reliable biomarkers for neurodegenerative diseases have the potential to revolutionise not only diagnostic processes and clinical practice, but also the development of novel drugs. For Alzheimer’s Disease (AD), the first biomarker test was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2012. Amyvid, a positron emission tomography (PET) tracer that detects Aβ plaques, was developed by Avid Pharmaceuticals and Eli Lilly. However, its use is admittedly limited, with a positive Amyvid scan being unable to establish a diagnosis of AD or other cognitive disorders. At the time of its approval, Amyvid had not been tested for effectiveness in predicting development of dementia or other neurologic conditions nor in monitoring responses to therapies.
Fast forward seven years and the search for neurological biomarkers has rapidly expanded, accelerated and become more sophisticated. Today, the fast-approaching horizon is blood-based biomarkers able to detect pathological proteins, from amyloid to tau. A recent paper published in JAMA Neurology assessed the performance of fully automated plasma assays as screening tests for AD-related β-Amyloid status, showing that what once was a farfetched dream is now becoming reality.
“With the aim to be less invasive, less expensive, more accurate, and more robust with new automated processes, blood-based biomarkers could be powerful tools for clinicians to diagnose patients with greater certainty. Not only that, but they could also guide the development of novel drugs for neurodegenerative diseases at both the target candidate identification stage and at the efficacy testing stage in clinical trials,” commented Tina.
However, even with improved biomarkers, it is acknowledged that they are, alone, insufficient as a diagnostic tool. Rather, it has been said that it should form ‘part of a multitiered diagnostic approach.’ Indeed, the detection and presence of pathological proteins does not necessarily correlate to cognitive decline in neurodegenerative diseases such as AD or Parkinson’s disease. The next step is to expand the biomarker regimen to include indicators such as synapse health and inflammation to create a more nuanced, holistic and detailed snapshot of a patient’s status.
Stay tuned for Part II and III of our blog series on the hottest trends in neuroscience research.