Oxford University’s new Drug Discovery Institute is making a big push in dementia and Alzheimer’s. Update: link fixed, I hope. One one level, that’s good news, because this is a tough area that needs all the well-placed shots that can be aimed at it. The folks Oxford will be staffing this institute with will surely not be dummies, and there’s a lot of currently underused drug discovery and development talent in the UK that I hope that they’ll tap into.
The Alzheimer’s Research UK charity is helping to launch three such institutes – one at Oxford, one in Cambridge, and one with University College, London, so they’re also planning to get plenty of academic firepower as well (and it’s not like people at all three institutions haven’t been working in the field already, in various ways). All this makes me hope that this part is just some hyperbole for the press release:
The research team at Oxford will develop multiple projects to design and develop new therapies. It plans to deliver up to three new therapies for further clinical development and trials within the next five years.
‘This has never been done before, and we believe that it will transform dementia research’, said Professor Chas Bountra, the other project leader at Oxford University, ‘We will work with the best academic and industrial scientists to identify potential new drug targets for dementia. We will then generate high quality starting points for making new medicines, but then uniquely, make them freely available to the world’s biomedical community. By doing so we will catalyse new biology, new disease understanding and importantly accelerate those few molecules which are likely to slow down the progression of this dreadful disease. We are crowd sourcing the discovery of new medicines for Alzheimer’s disease. This is unprecedented.’
Three good starting points in five years surely would be that. They’d better have about eight or nine really good ideas in hand right now if they want to have any chance at all. And honestly, I’m not sure if there are as many as eight or nine separate good ideas in Alzheimer’s drug therapy at all. I certainly hope I’m wrong about that. But I also hope that this strong, well-intentioned effort doesn’t start off by promising more than anyone can deliver.
Note: there’s been a trend towards Alzheimer’s optimism (or over-optimism) in the UK. I wonder if you just have to join along in this chorus in order to participate at all?