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European Biopharmaceutical Review

Remembering Alzheimer’s

We are privileged to live in an age of unprecedented scientific progress, yet it may all be insufficient if we are unsuccessful in mitigating the scourge of age-related dementia. Alzheimer’s disease affects more than 50 million individuals, costing over $500 billion annually. WHO estimates that these numbers may double in the next 20 years.

My first industrial projects were in neuroscience. At the time, much was unknown. Neuroscience drugs accounted for the largest segment of industry sales, based on many smallmolecule neurotransmitter analogues and a basic understanding of receptors. At that time, the ‘amyloid hypothesis’ was ascendant. There was much hope of an imminent cure.

Genetic markers suggest that Alzheimer’s disease begins with amyloid. Today, we know that betaamyloid build-up starts as much as a decade before clinical symptoms. It is hypothesised that inflammation accelerates cell death leading to clinical Alzheimer’s dementia. Today, palliative treatments for Alzheimer’s disease are the only available therapies. These are based on drugs to compensate for the insufficiency of endogenous neurotransmitters, caused by neuronal cell death. The most successful might improve a patient’s quality of life for a precious few years at most.

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Emile Bellott is a member of the EBR Industry Advisory Board, a graduate of the Harvard Business School, US, and an industry consultant with experience in the biotechnology and biopharmaceutical industry.
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