It’s National #DrugFacts Week!

National Drug Facts Week - Shatter the Myths!

This week is National Drug Facts Week, “a national health observance for teens to promote local events that use NIDA science to shatter the myths about drugs.” Be sure to check out the dedicated website to find events in your area, take the National Dug IQ Challenge, and find out how different drugs affect the brain and body.

There’s also a Chat Day on Friday, January 30, which is “an annual live online chat held between high school students and NIDA scientists… Students from around the country ask the questions they most want the answers to about drugs and drug abuse, including drug effects, how to help friends or family that are abusing drugs, and what causes addiction.” Transcripts for previous years’ chats are available online.

And speaking of awareness, our own Brain Awareness Week (BAW) is coming up fast! March 16-22 find events around the world dedicated to the brain, and help us celebrate 20 years of brain awareness outreach.

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Seeking to Reopen Pipelines to New Treatments

Slide shown at workshop, courtesy of FasterCures.

Slide shown at workshop, courtesy of FasterCures.

In the past few years, patients and families have watched as several large drug-makers have trimmed or closed their labs investigating new treatments for brain disorders. Meanwhile the need for preventives and treatments for schizophrenia, depression, bipolar illness, and other ailments remains—and the need for help for people developing Alzheimer’s and other dementias grows exponentially.

Taking a promising treatment from basic-science labs to everyday use for patients has always been risky. Drugs take a long time to develop and test; those that alter the brain and nervous system take longer than most and can cost more. The repeated, expensive, last-stage failures of drugs targeting  Alzheimer’s have added to the chilling effect. What could help re-balance the scales, and entice manufacturers back into the pipeline?

That was the topic of a two-day workshop held at the Institute of Medicine in Washington, DC, this week. The main question, said co-organizer Dennis Choi, was “Can feasible incentives be put into place that would bring drug makers back into central nervous system research?” More than six dozen researchers, policymakers, patent lawyers, industry representatives, foundations, and advocates for patients chewed on ideas new and old.

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The Art of Losing: Alzheimer’s Awareness in Still Alice

Nowadays, it’s not uncommon to witness people documenting their daily rituals—the food they’re eating, the clothes they’re wearing, who they’re with, or where they’re going. At times it feels as though the public is obsessed with preserving these seemingly insignificant moments, as if it’s crucial that not a single detail is forgotten. But for the increasingly large number of people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, this obsession with remembrance is a routine that signifies their cognitive descent. With the number of cases escalating, public awareness is essential to build support for more research to develop treatments and identify preventive steps.

Within five days of its release, the movie Still Alice has already been nominated for eight awards for its portrayal of a family that is forced to confront this deadly disease. In the film, Julianne Moore depicts an acclaimed professor of linguistics at Columbia University who is diagnosed with familial, early-onset Alzheimer’s. Based on the bestselling novel by neuroscientist Lisa Genova, Still Alice offers a window into the tragic reality of what it’s like to knowingly face a disease that, as of yet, has no cure. With her husband (played by Alec Baldwin) working as a medical researcher, the characters are able to shed some light on the scientific details of early-onset Alzheimer’s when speaking with Alice’s neurologist; but it’s done in a way so as not to overwhelm the audience with technical language.

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NIH and Center for Advancing Innovation Launch Neuro Start-Up Challenge

Guest post by Kayt Sukel

The mission of the National Institutes of Health is to “seek fundamental knowledge and behavior of living systems and the application of that knowledge to enhance health, lengthen life, and reduce illness and disability.” But the vast majority of research projects funded by NIH, despite their viability as potential treatments, won’t make it to clinical trials or commercial development because it lacks the money.

“You have to understand that the research that comes out of the NIH are very early stage projects—we’re a basic research discovery kind of organization,” says Thomas Stackhouse, associate director of the National Cancer Institute’s Technology Transfer Center. “So it’s very hard to get pharmaceutical companies or other organizations to partner around those discoveries no matter how promising they may be. The risk is just too high. But if we could create a start-up that can take one of these opportunities and run with it through some of the initial studies, it may be a good model to bring many more of these innovative technologies to market.”

To do so, NIH has partnered with two groups, the Center for Advancing Innovation (CAI), a non-profit group that spurs technology transfer, and the Heritage Provider Network, a California-based healthcare provider network, to sponsor the Neuro Start-Up Challenge. The challenge uses a crowd-sourced competition to find the best start-up companies to exploit some of the institutes’ most promising brain-related discoveries. Continue reading

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Dana Newsletter: December

Below is the content that appeared in the latest Dana email newsletter. You can sign up to receive this (and other Dana email alerts and/or print publications) by going here.

You Say You Want a Revolution?

by Wise Young, M.D., Ph.D., and Patricia Morton, Ph.D.

From the frontlines of spinal cord research, the authors lean on lessons from the past, their own experience, and events still unfolding as they raise questions about the future of all scientific research. From Cerebrum, our online magazine of ideas.

See also: Q&A with Wise Young

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