At a recent OBN/One Nucleus BioTuesday focusing on neurodegenerative diseases, I heard again the extent of the challenge faced by scientists wanting to develop new therapies. Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) is the best -known example of this struggle and the huge range of possible approaches from lifestyle improvements and disease modification to cutting edge treatments were all considered.

The breadth of the options illustrated just how much there is to be done. While some disease pathways such as the amyloid cascade are a primary focus for many, the number of possible diagnostic and treatment options demonstrated that it is still unclear to many researchers just how to tackle this disease. The early stage R&D pipeline looks healthy but with no new treatments for AD having been approved since 2013, and the very high failure rate, the situation still seems to be more about hope than promise. The 100% failure of disease modifiers in Phase III and the cost of a Phase III AD trial at around $400m has seen some companies pull out altogether.

New skills and diversity

All of this brings me to my thoughts on the talent needed to turn all this effort into success and where it’s going to come from. With so few Phase III studies and so much failure, the talent pool of people who have been successful in pulling an AD drug through to market, even with small effects, is shrinking all the time. Of course, there are other neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s and MS that are being worked on too, but industry is going to have to think laterally if it is going to find the necessary skills.

We have to be prepared to move talent across geographies and sectors and investigate talent pools in areas where working cultures and approaches are different, such as in academia. We should embrace and implement flexible employment structures to bring the expertise to where it can be applied. Also, we have to be prepared to train highly talented people who have transferable skills.

An open-minded approach is called for and we need to be prepared to take our time. At The RSA Group, we have industry-leading expertise in delivering neuroscience talent.

If you’d like to discuss this more or find out how our successful and industry leading Proof-of-Candidate® approach can help you, then please contact me.

Mark Howard, Managing Partner |

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