At no time has it been more important to support and nurture neuroscientific research. While we look to the aspirations of researchers and collaborators during this Brain Awareness Week, we recognise challenges facing all aspects of society as our populations live longer and the impact of neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease, becomes greater. But I do believe we are making progress, and listening, as well as participating, during this year’s BIO-Europe Spring there is a feeling of optimism. This is both around how we are beginning to better understand the disease biology and also how to translate this knowledge into potentially transformative treatments for neurodegeneration.
One area of particular interest is the emerging science on the role of neuroinflammation – the genetics that implicate inflammation pathways in the brain as both potential biomarkers and therapeutic targets for diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. We are now well placed to apply this knowledge to investigate novel targets and biomarkers to identify novel treatments. Our goal is to move from ‘diagnose and treat’ to ‘predict and pre-empt’, avoiding irreversible cellular and physiological damage.
But this does not mean we can do this alone. Collaboration amongst the neuroscience community is critical to making these advances. At Johnson & Johnson Innovation we are actively involved in many important collaborative efforts across the globe, aligning with the neuroscience community from academic researchers and startups to more established biotechs and large pharmaceutical companies. We are also engaging with other key stakeholders, such as government and non-profit organisations involved in funding academia-industry research consortia, as well as venture capital funds and incubators.
Looking to our newly formed JLABS @ BE incubator in Belgium, one recently established neuroscience company for which JJDC is one of the investors is Syndesi Therapeutics. This company is investigating a novel synaptic target for cognitive impairment in Alzheimer’s disease.
Casting my eye over some of the collaborations listed below these reflect how truly extensive and diverse neuroscience research is and how important it is that Johnson & Johnson continues to play a key role to help drive innovation:
- Investing in an innovative venture fund - the UK government-initiated Dementia Discovery Fund is a global effort that supports novel science aiming to discover and develop breakthrough treatments for dementia.
- The Dementias Platform UK, funded by the Medical Research Council and co-invested in by several large pharma companies including Johnson & Johnson, brings researchers from universities and industry together to provide an unprecedented resource of over 40 cohorts and a network of imaging, biomarker and other expertise to enable novel experimental medicine studies.
- UK public-private partnerships such as the Wellcome Trust co-funded Neuroimmunology in Mood and Alzheimer’s (NIMA) Consortium.
- An Oxford Drug Discovery Institute and Janssen project in the UK investigating neuroinflammation in Alzheimer’s Disease and exploring targets in these pathways genetically associated with Alzheimer’s disease.
- A memorandum of understanding with the University of Oxford announced as part of the UK Government Life Sciences Industrial Strategy in November 2017 describing the intention to collaborate with University of Oxford on a novel clinical trial platform, focused on mental health disorders such as depression.
- Asceneuron, a Swiss biotech with Series A financing from JJDC, specialises in small molecule drug discovery for neurodegenerative diseases including an orally bioavailable 0-GlcNAse inhibitor ASN-561.