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Partnership has been at the heart of what we do since our inception in 2014. Researchers in academia and industry are benefiting from new perspectives brought about by the collaborations that DPUK facilitates. Dr Declan Jones and Dr John Isaac from Janssen Pharmaceuticals share their experience of the DPUK partnership.

“Having been involved in DPUK from its initiation, we are experiencing first-hand the difference that DPUK is making to dementia research and the new opportunities that this innovative platform is providing for drug development.

The scientific and medical community is facing one of the biggest challenges of our time: how to prevent and treat Alzheimer’s disease. Identifying new targets and developing new drugs is extremely difficult, and this is compounded by the very high cost and the long duration of clinical trials. In order to test the newest insights from research and development, our colleagues in industry and academia recognise the value of closer collaboration. This enables more rapid identification of drug targets, facilitates drug discovery and provides innovation in clinical biomarkers and clinical trial design.

However, collaborative research programmes also come with significant barriers: identifying the best collaborators and setting up the necessary legal agreements is often a lengthy process, particularly in cases where there is no precedent for work and studies of this type, and where multiple industry partners are involved. Also, as a result of the different worlds of academia and industry, there are significant hurdles in ensuring effective leadership and maximizing the output of such collaborative efforts.

In this environment, DPUK offers an opportunity as a platform for collaboration. Its networks are already bringing together scientists working on common themes and who share a passion for collaboration. DPUK’s support for these networks, combined with the real prospect of cross-pharma and cross-academia collaborations supported by the DPUK infrastructure, is producing highly-engaged groups that are able to attract significant research resources to tackle difficult problems.

 

DPUK’s support for its networks is producing highly-engaged groups that are able to attract significant research resources to tackle difficult problems.

 

Through its legal framework, DPUK has set up pre-agreed conditions for collaboration, thereby facilitating such studies by minimising delay in establishing research agreements between members. DPUK has recognised the huge potential of patient cohort studies for Alzheimer’s disease drug development and, by providing the forums in which our colleagues can develop new projects with partners in universities, it is invigorating the field, facilitating a much-needed new way of working and providing access to valuable new data resources from across the platform.

NTAD is one example of how this has worked well: this study, seeking to identify a new clinical biomarker for Alzheimer’s disease progression based on magnetoencephalography (MEG), involves scientists at the universities of Cambridge, Cardiff and Oxford and at the pharma companies Janssen, Lilly, and MedImmune. The work is funded by research grants from DPUK, Alzheimer’s Research UK and from funds and work-in-kind supplied by Janssen, MedImmune and Lilly as well as significant commitments from the universities. This is a great example of the collaborative spirit of DPUK and shows how DPUK is bringing the academic and industry communities together to address the challenge of dementia. There are similar examples in other areas of DPUK, and we hope that over the next few years this will be an increasingly common way to carry out research.”

Dr John Isaac, Senior Director, Neuroscience External Innovations, Janssen Pharmaceuticals
Dr Declan Jones, Vice President, Neuroscience External Innovations, Janssen Pharmaceuticals

Dr Declan Jones is a member of the DPUK executive team and was, until October 2016, co-lead (with Professor James Rowe) of the Synaptic Health network. Dr John Isaac took over co-leadership of this network when he joined Janssen in October 2016. The New Targets in Alzheimer’s Disease study (NTAD) is funded through the Synaptic Health network and commences in November 2017.