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There’s a song running through my head as I reflect on April being Parkinson’s Disease (PD) Awareness month.  It’s Kool & The Gang’s hit from 1980, Celebration.  In case you don’t recall, it started, “There’s a party goin’ on right here. A celebration to last throughout the years…”, with the refrain, “Come on now…Celebration…Let’s all celebrate and have a good time!”.  Now why, you might ask, would anyone want to celebrate Parkinson’s? You’re right, but it’s not the disease I’m celebrating.  I’m celebrating the people who fight Parkinson’s Disease day in and day out. I’m referring to those who suffer from the disease, their family members, caretakers, and the researchers working for a cure or symptom relief.

Datamonitor Healthcare estimates that in 2017, there were 2.0 million diagnosed prevalent cases of PD in the US, Japan, and five major EU markets among those aged 50 years and older [1].   PD is a devastating progressive disease of the nervous system and marked by symptoms such as tremor, stiffness, slowing of movement, stooped posture, changes in writing, but the diagnosis hasn’t stopped people from fighting for advances in symptom relief and a cure.  Many of those afflicted by the disease and their caregivers have formed communities to battle PD by sharing tips on the management of their symptoms, providing emotional and educational support for each other, and raising money for research. 

One such group, Team Fox (associated with Michael J. Fox Foundation), is a grassroots fundraising community consisting of 175,000 friends and family with a shared commitment to curing PD.  In 2017, this group raised over $10 million dollars by holding over 5,800 fundraisers worldwide [2].  Another group is the Parkinson’s Foundation, which sponsors Parkinson’s Moving Day walks that are held throughout the United States.  Moving Day has raised nearly $22 million dollars and brought more than 130,000 participants together [3].  There are many more organizations, foundations, forums, and communities dedicated to fight this disease.  They are all truly a cause to celebrate!
So, what is happening with PD research based on this support and efforts by the pharma industry? Can we find something to celebrate here? Trialtrove, a real-time source of pharmaceutical clinical trials intelligence, shows that there are 327 PD trials currently ongoing or planned around the world.  Sitetrove, Trialtrove’s sister product, has identified 809 different investigators associated with these trials, which are taking place in 50 countries. 

The top ten are shown in Figure 1.

 

 

Parkinsons Figure 1

Figure 1. Ongoing or planned Parkinson’s Disease trials by country
Source: Trialtrove, April 2019                                                                                                        

For the past five years the number of PD trials initiated has been on the rise.  In fact, Trialtrove shows a ten-fold increase in clinical trial starts in this time period, with 72 starts in 2018 (Figure 2).  It is great to see that this uptick has been steady.

 

 

Parkinsons Figure 2
Figure 2. Parkinson’s Disease Trial Starts
Source: Trialtrove, April 2019                    
                                                                                   
What is driving this growth? Analysis of the trials finds that industry has increased its attention in PD.  In 2018, 62% of trial starts were industry-sponsored, compared to only 32% in 2015.  If this trend continues, there will be a big shift in the overall percentage of industry-sponsored, ongoing trials. Currently, 36% of planned or ongoing trials are industry-sponsored compared to 35% being sponsored by the academic community (Figure 3). It is interesting to note that only 6% of the trials are jointly sponsored by industry and academia (Data not shown).

 

Parkinsons Figure 3

Figure 3. Trials by sponsor type
Source: Trialtrove, April 2019
                                                                                                    
It’s encouraging to see the many companies that are involved in PD research.  There are 108 different companies currently sponsoring one or more trials. Both big and small pharma are involved, with trial focus ranging from symptom relief to gene therapy for disease modification. 

AbbVie is leading the way by sponsoring 10 ongoing and planned trials.  Like most companies, their trials are focused on treating symptoms associated with PD.  In February of this year, however, AbbVie announced a collaboration with Voyager Therapeutics on vectorized antibodies to treat PD. This agreement is to develop and commercialize vectorized antibodies directed at pathological species of alpha-synuclein for the potential treatment of PD and other diseases [5].

Acadia is next in line with 6 trials as they continue to investigate their breakthrough product, pimavanserin, approved by the US FDA in April 2016 to treat Parkinson’s psychosis. Mitsubishi, Sumitomo and Neurocrine Biosciences all have ongoing or planned registration enabling trials.  Both Mitsubishi and Sumitomo’s drugs are intended for symptom relief.  Neurocrine Biosciences’ planned trial is evaluating a gene therapy originated by Voyager Therapeutics, VY-AADC.  Seeing the potential for disease modification in PD is truly exciting.  In fact, the variety of companies as well as drugs involved in clinical development is a cause for celebration.  


Parkinsons Figure 4

Figure 4. Top 10 industry sponsors of ongoing or planned Parkinson’s Disease trials
Source: Trialtrove, April 2019  
                                                                                                                     
This increasing interest in PD research and the determination of those affected by this disease are a winning combination. There is a reason to celebrate progress in Parkinson’s disease during Parkinson’s Awareness Month. Come on, let’s celebrate! Let’s fight for success for current PD patients and the possibility the disease might one day become a thing of the past.

References:
[1] Datamonitor Healthcare’s Epidemiology: Parkinson’s Disease, June 2018.
[2] Michael J. Fox Foundation 2017 Annual report. Available from https://www.michaeljfox.org/foundation/finance.html [Accessed April 5, 2019].
[3] Parkinson’s Moving Day. Available from https://movingdaywalk.org/ [Accessed April 5, 2019].
[4] Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation State Health Facts. Available from https://www.kff.org/other/state-indicator/distribution-by-age/?currentTimeframe=0&sortModel=%7B%22colId%22:%22Location%22,%22sort%22:%22asc%22%7D [Accessed April 5,2019].
[5] AbbVie press release, February 22, 2019. Available from https://news.abbvie.com/news/abbvie-and-voyager-therapeutics-announce-collaboration-to-develop-vectorized-antibodies-to-treat-parkinsons-disease-and-other-synucleinopathies.htm [Accessed April 10, 2019].

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