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Open science to transform research in Alzheimer’s disease

Research into Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias is growing rapidly, but how can this be translated into improved diagnostics and therapies in the near future? An environment of open research collaboration and data may be the answer.


Planning for the success of long-term goals in the diagnosis and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and related dementias (ADRD) requires a framework for the harmonization of data from multiple sources and broader access to these resources for research.

Key US legislation passed since 2011 has set out a National Plan to address AD alongside a requirement for the submission of an annual budget for National Institute of Health (NIH) AD/ADRD research to US congress. This has led to a considerable acceleration in AD/ADRD research funding from $631M in 2015 to an estimated $1,915M in 2018.

Alzheimer’s disease research spending has tripled in the past 3 years

Transformative data

Richard J. Hodes, MD (National Institute on Aging [NIA], USA) gave an update on the evolving collaborative environment in AD and ADRD research in a plenary lecture.

Increased funding is driving new studies in AD/ADRD and is attracting more investigators, with many coming from other fields of research that could further supplement knowledge. The NIA is continuing to support the development of a number of groups and resources, which form the infrastructure for AD/ADRD research in the US.

Interactions within the NIA-sponsored AD/ADRD infrastructure is driving translational research programs

The International Alzheimer’s and Related Dementias Research Portfolio, a global collaboration between the NIA, the Alzheimer’s Association, and more than 40 other organizations, provides an open-access index of public- and privately-funded research (https://iadrp.nia.nih.gov/). The database is categorized according to the Common Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Dementias Research Ontology, enabling researchers to identify shared interests and the potential for collaboration, as well as minimizing inefficiencies.

The Global Alzheimer’s Association Interactive Network (GAAIN) promotes worldwide data sharing. Through its open access, federated database, GAAIN partners provide study information, which is aggregated by the Laboratory of Neuro Imaging, and can then be searched by investigators.

An array of other programs provide accessible research resources for use to support understanding of AD and  drug development, including: genetic and genomic data (NIA Genetics of Alzheimer’s Disease Data Storage Site; www.niagads.org/genomics); candidate targets and biomarkers (Accelerating Medicines Partnership; www.synapse.org.ampad); animal models (Consortium for Model Development and Evaluation for Late Onset AD); preclinical data (Alzheimer’s Disease Preclinical Efficacy Database; https://alzped.nia.nih.gov/); neuroimaging data and samples (Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative; http://adni.loni.usc.edu/data-samples/access-data/); autosomal dominant AD (Dominantly Inherited Alzheimer Network; https://dian.wustl.edu/)

An open research ecosystem is key to accelerate AD therapy development in the future.

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