The Coalition Against Major Diseases: Taking Aim at Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s Disease

Casty Photo2 
Frank Casty, M.D., Vice President, Technical Evaluations at AstraZeneca

I’ve worn many hats in my professional life, among them medical doctor, manager and executive. The thread that runs through all these roles is a commitment to patients and to enhancing patient health.  As the Industry Chairperson of the Coalition Against Major Diseases (CAMD)*, I’ve witnessed firsthand the energy and passion our coalition has for helping patients who struggle with life-altering diseases.  We are currently focused on creating the ability for scientists to identify characteristics of patients who are likely to develop Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s diseases before symptoms are apparent, and to develop tools that will focus on preventing or slowing the disease before it significantly impacts quality of life. For those of us who’ve worked in the pharmaceutical industry, this type of model is somewhat common within companies. Some of you may even be wondering “What’s so special about CAMD that there’s a blog post about it?” CAMD is unique in that it does not function inside of just one pharmaceutical company, government, or research agency. CAMD members are from 12 pharmaceutical companies and seven patient advocacy groups, with advisors from government research and regulatory agencies such as the FDA, the European Medicines Agency (EMA), National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), and the National Institute on Aging (NIA). This makes CAMD an unprecedented, public-private partnership of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), industry, patient groups, and international government entities. How can we achieve our objective?  We need to aggregate data, a lot of data, from across the pharmaceutical industry and make it available to researchers around the world.

On Friday June 11th we took a big step in that direction. In an unparalled event, the CAMD released a new shared and standardized database of more than 4,000 patients who have participated in 11 industry-sponsored clinical trials for Alzheimer’s disease. This will be the largest database openly available to qualified researchers in the world, and is the first effort of its kind to standardize and accelerate research on brain disease.  The database will provide the platform for qualified researchers to design more efficient clinical trials of new treatments.  This will allow the industry to more quickly identify potential therapies that have a positive effect on disease progression, and also to more quickly stop work on therapies that show no benefit.

*CAMD is led and managed by the non-profit, Critical Path Institute, and funded by a cooperative agreement with the FDA and a matching grant from Science Foundation Arizona.  For more information on CAMD, visit