DAB

Though research on age differences has its place, almost by definition, research on aging involves tracking people over time periods long enough to observe long-term changes in their lives and health. And, accurate measurements of large samples can be an expensive undertaking. The NIA has made major investments to create and maintain data resources that can be used for dozens—and in some cases, hundreds—of analyses, using the tools of the behavioral and social sciences.

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Flip a coin? Roll the dice? Consult an expert? How do you decide?

What happens as we age that may either compromise or strengthen our decision-making capacities? To appreciate how aging affects our ability to make decisions, we need to first understand age-related changes in basic psychological processes involved, including social, cognitive and emotional motivations for decisions. Research providing that knowledge can help us build better interventions to support decision making by older adults including decisions that affect their health.

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The entire U.S. government, including NIA, is currently operating under an extension of a continuing resolution (CR) that will end on April 28…unless it is extended again, that is. A continuing resolution extends the previous year’s appropriations act, and the appropriations language within it, into the next fiscal year. It is usually minimally altered from the terms in the prior year. In other words, at this point in FY 2017, we’re operating with virtually the same budget we had in FY 2016.

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Alzheimer’s drug discovery and development is not for the fainthearted. It’s extremely expensive and time-consuming, and the possibility of disappointment looms at every phase of discovery. According to one analysis, half of candidate therapies fail during preclinical research—the phase when important information on feasibility, testing, and drug safety is collected. And, if a promising therapy does advance to a clinical trial, another recent analysis indicates there’s a 98 percent failure rate during phase II and III, primarily due to lack of efficacy.

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Small smiles of satisfaction spread around the staff in my office last week. The NIH Guide published the last of our long-running saga of funding opportunity announcements (FOAs) on Alzheimer’s disease and Alzheimer’s-related dementias (ADRD). These were the concepts that the National Advisory Council on Aging approved last September (Thank you again, everyone!).

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We are excited to let you know that NIA has a resource for investigators seeking to analyze biomedical data. The Health, Aging and Body Composition (Health ABC) Study began in 1997 and collected data for 17 years on a cohort of older black and white adults living in Memphis and Pittsburgh. Participants were aged 70-79 at baseline. These data are now online on NIA’s website and available to qualified researchers. We invite you to take a look!

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The mighty push for research on Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias continues at NIA. While an earlier blog highlighted the research initiatives we have published, this chapter covers the more recent publication of two training initiatives and four small business-related initiatives.

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As most of you probably know, there has been a big influx of funds for Alzheimer’s disease research, with perhaps more to come. We recently issued several new Funding Opportunity Announcements (FOAs) focused on Alzheimer’s. A burning question in the minds of many scientists is: Can a basic biologist not currently working on Alzheimer’s really expect to receive funds targeted towards Alzheimer’s research?

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On October 11, 2016, the first manuscript describing a treasure trove of genomic data contributed by members of the Accelerating Medicines Partnership for Alzheimer’s Disease (AMP-AD) Target Discovery and Preclinical Validation Consortium was published in Nature Scientific Data. The publication of the datasets and their description are part of an NIH-wide effort to bring together big data and experts from diverse disciplines to better understand dementia, as well as other chronic conditions.

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I visited Cleveland over Thanksgiving. In a moment of peace from family conversations, I picked up the local paper. The first story I encountered was a long report on the Health and Retirement Study findings, funded by NIA, showing a substantial decline in U.S. dementia rates in the last 20 years. Then, I encountered a story reporting Eli Lilly’s negative clinical trial results on solanezumab. My immediate conclusion was that, no matter where I go, my job follows me!

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