Alzheimer’s disease is a frightening diagnosis, and its numbers are rising. While there are treatments available, these temporarily improve symptoms or slow development, but do not stop or reverse the disease. A public-private partnership led by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) could speed the rate of research and drug development by improving access to data and analysis through its Alzheimer’s Big Data portal.
The data sharing and analysis resource, known as AMP-AD Knowledge Portal, is part of the Accelerating Medicines Partnership (AMP) and has released the first wave of data. The portal brings together NIH, the FDA (Food and Drug Administration), industry and academic scientists from a variety of disciplines.
A vast amount of data will be generated through the five-year long AMP-AD Target Discovery and Preclinical Validation Project in Alzheimer’s disease research, including animal, human clinical, imaging and genetic information. The aim of the project is to support researchers in sharing and analysing these large and complex biomedical datasets in order to create predictive models of Alzheimer’s disease and enable the selection of novel targets.
“We are determined to reduce the cost and time it takes to discover viable therapeutic targets and bring new diagnostics and effective therapies to people with Alzheimer’s. That demands a new way of doing business,” says NIH director Francis S Collins. “The AD initiative of AMP is one way we can revolutionize Alzheimer’s research and drug development by applying the principles of open science to the use and analysis of large and complex human data.”
The portal was developed by Sage Bionetworks, a Seattle-based non-profit research organization promoting open science. The academics and Sage Bionetworks data scientists will work with industry bioinformaticians and drug discovery experts to integrate the molecular and clinical data from over 2,000 post-mortem brain samples.
The partners are:
- National Institute on Aging (NIA) at NIH
- National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) NIH
- Sage Bionetworks
- Biogen Idec
- Alzheimer’s Association
- Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation
- Geoffrey Beene Foundation
- USAgainst Alzheimer’s
- Foundation for the NIH.
“The enormous complexity of the human brain and the processes involved in development and progression of Alzheimer’s disease have been major barriers to drug development,” says NIA director Richard J Hodes. “Now that we are gathering the data and developing the tools needed to tackle this complexity, it is key to make them widely accessible to the research community so we can speed up the development of critically needed therapies.”
There is no publication embargo on the use of the data once posted to the AMP-AD Knowledge Portal, so this should increase the transparency, reproducibility and translatability of basic research discoveries.
“The era of Big Data and open science can be a game-changer in our ability to choose therapeutic targets for Alzheimer’s that may lead to effective therapies tailored to diverse patients,” says Suzana Petanceska, NIA’s program director leading the AMP-AD Target Discovery Project. “Simply stated, we can work more effectively together than separately.”