Dr. Nancy Nadon, chief of DAB’s Biological Resources Branch, is retiring next month, and I undertake this writing with very mixed feelings. On one hand, I’m elated that Nancy will now be able to fully enjoy the benefits of retirement. But on the other hand, I’m sad to see such a fair-minded and accomplished colleague leave the NIA.
Though research on age differences has its place, almost by definition, research on aging involves tracking people over time periods long enough to observe long-term changes in their lives and health. And, accurate measurements of large samples can be an expensive undertaking. The NIA has made major investments to create and maintain data resources that can be used for dozens—and in some cases, hundreds—of analyses, using the tools of the behavioral and social sciences.
Alzheimer’s drug discovery and development is not for the fainthearted. It’s extremely expensive and time-consuming, and the possibility of disappointment looms at every phase of discovery. According to one analysis, half of candidate therapies fail during preclinical research—the phase when important information on feasibility, testing, and drug safety is collected. And, if a promising therapy does advance to a clinical trial, another recent analysis indicates there’s a 98 percent failure rate during phase II and III, primarily due to lack of efficacy.
Researchers often complain to us that new funding opportunity announcements (FOAs) scoot past them, lost in the blizzard of information that arrives daily. Unless you obsessively monitor the NIH Guide—which we’re not necessarily recommending—you may not see every new announcement that NIA publishes. And, unless you have a well-thought-out research proposal outlined and ready to commit to paper, it sometimes can be difficult to pull together a grant application in the time allowed.
We are excited to let you know that NIA has a resource for investigators seeking to analyze biomedical data. The Health, Aging and Body Composition (Health ABC) Study began in 1997 and collected data for 17 years on a cohort of older black and white adults living in Memphis and Pittsburgh. Participants were aged 70-79 at baseline. These data are now online on NIA’s website and available to qualified researchers. We invite you to take a look!
On October 11, 2016, the first manuscript describing a treasure trove of genomic data contributed by members of the Accelerating Medicines Partnership for Alzheimer’s Disease (AMP-AD) Target Discovery and Preclinical Validation Consortium was published in Nature Scientific Data. The publication of the datasets and their description are part of an NIH-wide effort to bring together big data and experts from diverse disciplines to better understand dementia, as well as other chronic conditions.
On September 21–23, 2016 almost 100 physicians and researchers attended the second biennial GEMSSTAR Scholars Conference, “Models and Studies of Aging,” here in Bethesda. The meeting was sponsored by a U13 conference grant from the NIA to the American Geriatrics Society (AGS), with additional support from the John A. Hartford Foundation.
So you think you want to conduct a clinical trial? Of course, it’s a very complex undertaking. Each stage requires you to comply with regulatory and research standards. And from scientific protocols to procedural manuals, several key documents drive both trial operations and protocol compliance. I’m pleased to let you know that NIA has come up with one way to help you streamline study start-up and adhere to standards.
On July 18, NIA Director Dr. Richard Hodes announced that Dr. Eliezer Masliah had been appointed director of the Division of Neuroscience. Dr. Masliah was previously at the University of California, San Diego and a member of the National Advisory Council on Aging. “Inside NIA” sat down with Dr. Masliah to talk about his research plans for the division.