The "rights" of precision drug development for Alzheimer's disease

Alzheimers Res Ther. 2019 Aug 31;11(1):76. doi: 10.1186/s13195-019-0529-5.


There is a high rate of failure in Alzheimer's disease (AD) drug development with 99% of trials showing no drug-placebo difference. This low rate of success delays new treatments for patients and discourages investment in AD drug development. Studies across drug development programs in multiple disorders have identified important strategies for decreasing the risk and increasing the likelihood of success in drug development programs. These experiences provide guidance for the optimization of AD drug development. The "rights" of AD drug development include the right target, right drug, right biomarker, right participant, and right trial. The right target identifies the appropriate biologic process for an AD therapeutic intervention. The right drug must have well-understood pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic features, ability to penetrate the blood-brain barrier, efficacy demonstrated in animals, maximum tolerated dose established in phase I, and acceptable toxicity. The right biomarkers include participant selection biomarkers, target engagement biomarkers, biomarkers supportive of disease modification, and biomarkers for side effect monitoring. The right participant hinges on the identification of the phase of AD (preclinical, prodromal, dementia). Severity of disease and drug mechanism both have a role in defining the right participant. The right trial is a well-conducted trial with appropriate clinical and biomarker outcomes collected over an appropriate period of time, powered to detect a clinically meaningful drug-placebo difference, and anticipating variability introduced by globalization. We lack understanding of some critical aspects of disease biology and drug action that may affect the success of development programs even when the "rights" are adhered to. Attention to disciplined drug development will increase the likelihood of success, decrease the risks associated with AD drug development, enhance the ability to attract investment, and make it more likely that new therapies will become available to those with or vulnerable to the emergence of AD.

Keywords: Alzheimer’s disease; Biomarkers; Clinical trials; Drug development.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Alzheimer Disease / diagnosis
  • Alzheimer Disease / drug therapy*
  • Biomarkers
  • Drug Development*
  • Humans
  • Precision Medicine*
  • Research Design


  • Biomarkers