Alzheimer’s disease not only robs people of their memories. Unrelentingly, it also steals their very sense of self and causes great emotional distress in patients and families alike. When I grew up in Germany, I witnessed every aspect of Alzheimer’s from close up and personal as I watched my grandfather struggle with this devastating disease and lose the battle in the end.
Today, for millions of others like my grandfather, my colleagues and I have taken on the unprecedented challenge of this and many other neurological illnesses that rob people of their abilities to think, remember, control their movements and even breathe. Because these diseases are extremely complex, they require an interdisciplinary approach. We have therefore built a highly collaborative team in which basic scientists—focused on unraveling the fundamentals of disease mechanisms—interact fluidly with physician-scientists like myself, who bring the critical patient perspective to our research.
We are on the cusp of several important advancements towards our mission of better understanding, preventing, treating and—ultimately—curing neurological disease. For Alzheimer’s in particular, but also for other diseases we study, we expect Gladstone advancements to lead to personally tailored and multi-pronged therapies. Just as we can now effectively treat HIV-infected patients with a cocktail of antiretroviral drugs—and those with hypertension are treated with diuretics, beta blockers and other drugs—we expect to treat patients with complex neurological conditions with drug combinations that target both the worst symptoms and the root causes of the diseases.
Rapidly evolving approaches to the comprehensive profiling of patients’ risk factors, such as whole-genome sequencing, will play an increasingly important role in overcoming neurological disease, in much the same way as these approaches are already used to match up certain cancer patients with specific drugs they stand to benefit from the most. We will combine large-scale screening approaches with focused explorations and validations of promising leads and continue to advance our understanding of the nervous system until rational strategies can be developed for the treatment and prevention of the most disabling neurological ailments.