Monthly Archives: September 2014

The ALzheimer’s COoperative Valuation in Europe (ALCOVE) project was a Joint Action co-financed by the European Commission to produce a set of evidence-based recommendations for policymakers on dementia.

A recent article published in the International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry reports on progress regarding the ALCOVE work-stream devoted to timely diagnosis.

Brooker, D. La Fontaine, J. [and] Evans, S. [et al] (2014). Public health guidance to facilitate timely diagnosis of dementia: ALzheimer’s COoperative Valuation in Europe recommendations. International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry. July 2014, Vol.29(7),pp.682-93.

A multi-disciplinary research team led by Prof. H.Y. Edwin Chan of the School of Life Sciences at The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) has identified a novel genetic mutation that leads to spinocerebellar ataxia (SCA). The work has been published in the September issue of Journal of Medical Genetics.

SCAs refer to a group of genetic diseases that cause progressive deterioration of the nervous system, particularly the cerebellum and are, at present, considered to be incurable. Sufferers gradually lose the fine motor functions of their bodies and have difficulty maintaining balance or coordinating daily movements.

The team consisting of biochemists, bioinformaticians, cell biologists, chemical pathologist, medical geneticists, neurologists and radiologist, embarked on a cross-disciplinary study with the aim of unveiling the underlying cause of a familial form of SCA identified in the local Hong Kong population. By means of next generation sequencing, the team first tracked down candidate disease-causing polymorphisms in the patients’ genomes. With a concerted experimental and bioinformatic effort, the researchers finally confined the SCA mutation to the coiled-coil domain containing 88C (CCDC88C) gene. This newly discovered form of SCA has been recognized as ‘SCA40’ by the Human Genome Organization Gene Nomenclature Committee

September 25 is ‘International Ataxia Awareness Day’, a worldwide campaign first organized 15 years ago with the aim of raising awareness of the illness around the globe.

Trinity College Dublin in Ireland played host to the launch event for a new campaign called “Hello Brain” on 22nd of September, 2014

Hello Brain is a campaign that promotes brain health through easy-to-understand scientific information.

A website containing entertaining short videos, top tips for brain health and a free app to use on smartphone is hoped to help people to improve their brain health in an enjoyable yet educational manner.

The “Hello Brain Ambassadors” hope the campaign will reach as many people as possible and that their free resources will can be used to promote active and healthy ageing.

The second in a series of four Global Dementia Legacy events took place on 11 and 12 September in the Canadian capital, Ottawa. The 200 delegates included experts from the research and industry sectors, health charities, patients, caregivers and government leaders.

The event entitled “Harnessing the power of discoveries: Maximizing academia-industry synergies” aimed to:

  • Explore collaborative opportunities for research into novel diagnostic, pre-emptive and therapeutic approaches to dementia.
  • Provide a better understanding of the impact of the paradigm shift in pharmaceutical research.
  • Foster a collective approach to problem-solving, using expert panel discussions to identify practical and creative solutions.

Canadian Health Minister, Rona Ambrose noted the significant impact of dementia on society and made a number of announcements regarding the Canadian Government’s approach, including the release of the “National Dementia Research and Prevention Plan”.

The next legacy event will be in Japan from 5 to 7 November and the final event in the series will take place in the US on 9 and 10 February 2015.

Twins who came to an ALS Clinic in Toronto were identical down to the repeats in their C9ORF72 genes, except one had amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and the other did not. The mismatch suggests environmental influences modified the twins’ risk for ALS, researchers concluded in the September 10 Neurology online.

More studies of identical twins with C9ORF72 repeats should help scientists identify such factors, said Ekaterina Rogaeva of the University of Toronto, senior author on the report.

Co-senior author Lorne Zinman of the Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto examined the women, who are now 62. One developed motor neuron symptoms at age 57, although she performed normally on cognitive tests. Her sister shows no signs of ALS.

However, the unaffected twin performed poorly on some cognitive tests and though her scores were not low enough to conclude she has frontotemporal dementia (FTD), they suggest she might be headed in that direction, said Rogaeva.

Pharmaceutical companies, AstraZeneca and Eli Lilly and Co (Lilly) announced on 16 September having reached an agreement to jointly develop and commercialise AZD3293, an oral BACE inhibitor currently in development as a potential treatment for Alzheimer’s disease (AD).

In Phase I studies, AZD3293 had been shown to significantly and dose-dependently reduce levels of amyloid beta in the cerebro-spinal fluid of trial participants with Alzheimer’s disease as well as in healthy volunteers. AstraZeneca announced its plan to move AZD3293 into registration trials earlier this year.

This alliance has been formed with the aim of progressing AZD3293 rapidly into a Phase II/III clinical trial in patients with early Alzheimer’s disease.

Lilly will lead clinical development, working with researchers from AstraZeneca’s Innovative Medicines Unit for neuroscience, while AstraZeneca will be responsible for manufacturing. The companies will take joint responsibility for the commercialisation of AZD3293.


On 17 September, Alzheimer’s Disease International (ADI) released its annual World Alzheimer Report, this year on the topic of “Dementia and Risk Reduction: An analysis of protective and modifiable factors”.

With predictions of a coming global avalanche of dementia cases, researchers are turning their attention to prevention strategies. Based on current data, at least four lifestyle factors robustly affect dementia risk, according to the World Alzheimer Report 2014.

Researchers led by Martin Prince at King’s College London analyzed previous studies that examined the effects of developmental, psychological, lifestyle, and cardiovascular factors on dementia risk. They found that diabetes heightened risk by 50 percent, while smoking increased the odds of Alzheimer’s disease by the same amount. Hypertension in midlife pumped up the risk for vascular dementia by 60 percent, while education lowered dementia risk by about 40 percent. Factors such as depression and obesity also appeared to inflate risk, while physical activity and cognitive stimulation seemed to lower it, but existing data are not strong enough to draw firm conclusions about those factors, the report noted.

The findings belie the report from a 2010 National Institutes of Health State-of-the-Science panel, which concluded that insufficient evidence existed to endorse any health intervention for lowering Alzheimer’s risk. The World Alzheimer Report argues that, “There is persuasive evidence that the dementia risk for populations can be modified through reduction in tobacco use and better control and detection for hypertension and diabetes, as well as cardiovascular risk factors.”

The findings add to a growing body of evidence suggesting that improving heart health and maintaining an active lifestyle and sensible diet wards off dementia.

Researchers attribute recent drops in dementia incidence in developed countries to higher education levels and better cardiovascular care.

The Lasker-DeBakey Clinical Medical Research Award is one of the most important medical awards and goes this year to Alim Benabid, Grenoble, France and Mahlong R. Delong, Atlanta, USA for the ‘development of deep brain stimulation of the subthalamic nucleus (STN-DBS), a surgical technique that reduces tremors and restores motor function in patients with advanced Parkinson’s disease’.

The World Dementia Council has announced the next steps in its drive to speed up dementia research and increase investment. The plans were agreed at its second meeting at the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development in Paris in July.

Four main areas are being pursued in order to tackle the lack of effective treatment and sufficient funding to find a cure:

Integrated development – Optimising the path of medicines from research through to market by reducing barriers & encouraging regulatory flexibility. This work is being led by WDC member Raj Long, Senior Regulatory Officer, Integrated Development, Global Health at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Finance and incentives – Looking at ways to increase the relatively low investment in funding dementia innovation by exploring new types of funding product. The first stages of this work will be focused on different stages of the drug development process with the development of two models that could support early stage and late stage drug development respectively. Later work is likely to focus on care innovation and basic science. The UK Government has engaged JP Morgan to help the WDC develop its proposals.

Open science – Unleashing the enormous potential of open science for sharing information and knowledge to accelerate progress in developing new treatments and care approaches, and avoiding wasteful duplication of effort. Both the World Health Organisation and OECD will be supporting the Council in developing their work on this.

Public health/prevention – The Council is also beginning an evidence review into existing research on how risk factors such as diabetes and heart disease relate to dementia, as well as looking into public health messaging on lifestyle and prevention. WDC member Harry Johns, President and CEO of Alzheimer’s Association, Harry Johns is leading this review.

The JPND Newsletter brings together a number of relevant JPND news stories for JPND international stakeholder communities.

Contents include highlights of JPND activities, information on JPND-supported projects as well as interviews with JPND Scientific Advisory Board members.

The third edition (September 2014) is available here or at the link below.