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Alzheimer's disease research attracts first partner

The Australian Alzheimer's disease cluster study The Australian Imaging, Biomarker and Lifestyle Flagship Study of Ageing (AIBL) has secured its first collaborative research agreement with a major strategic alliance partner, Pfizer Australia.

AIBL is the world's largest study of its type, and aims to better understand the causes of Alzheimer's disease and to discover a method for early diagnosis.

The study is an initiative of the CSIRO Preventative Health Flagship which involves collaborative, multi-organisational research across Australia and brings together world leaders in the fundamental science of Alzheimer's disease.

Since its inception in 2006, AIBL has recruited a cohort of over 1000 volunteers over the age of 60 and investigated four major disease indications: neuro-imaging, clinical and cognitive testing, blood biomarker samples, and health and lifestyle data.

The leader of the AIBL study, Professor David Ames from the University of Melbourne, says the partnership with Pfizer Australia will see a panel of biomarkers tested against the AIBL cohort. "If we are able to identify blood-based biomarkers it will enable us to identify which people will develop Alzheimer's disease before any symptoms are present," he says.

"Early pre-symptomatic diagnosis is an essential development which will allow us to test new disease modifying therapies with the aim of delaying the onset of Alzheimer's disease in susceptible individuals."

According to Pfizer Australia's Head of Strategic Alliances, Dr Daniel Grant, the three-year deal, valued at more than $A1.1m, again demonstrates the value Pfizer Australia sees in collaborating with Australian scientists and clinicians.

"The collaboration with the AIBL study also highlights the importance that we place upon the discovery and use of biomarkers as we seek to develop innovative medicines to treat neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's disease," he says.

Professor Ames says the study has already had success with neuro-imaging results showing that the diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease can be brought forward by up to 18 months using a technique called PiB PET scans.

"This work places Australia at the forefront of neuro-imaging in Alzheimer's disease, but unfortunately, because of the large cost per scan it is unlikely at this stage to be useful for large population screening.

"Ultimately, we are working towards the 'holy grail' of Alzheimer's research, which is to find a simple blood test something which we hope this partnership will facilitate."

The Director of CSIRO's Preventative Health National Research Flagship, Dr Richard Head, says the progress made to date highlights the value of a national collaborative team working together on one of Australia's biggest community health challenges.

The AIBL Study of Ageing is a collaboration initiated by the CSIRO Preventative Health National Research Flagship involving; The University of Melbourne, Edith Cowan University - Western Australia, Neurosciences Australia, Mental Health Research Institute of Victoria and National Ageing Research Institute and the Preventative Health Flagship.The Australian eHealth Research Centre is also involved in developing image analysis methods designed to quantify the disease's progression .

National Research Flagships

CSIRO initiated the National Research Flagships to provide science-based solutions in response to Australia's major research challenges and opportunities. The nine Flagships form multidisciplinary teams with industry and the research community to deliver impact and benefits for Australia.


Contact: Michelle Zucker
CSIRO Australia

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