It would seem that financial backers are turned off by past drug failures that are brain injury specific – strokes, brain illnesses and brain trauma. Harry Tracy who runs NI Research, a neurological focused consulting firm, cites 50 stroke drugs that failed over the past 10 years. Tracy says that this is because of the difficulty in conducting clinical trials as there are a variety of reactions to not only the drugs but the injuries themselves.
This lack of ready progress, high cost and level of complexity discourages potential investors from TBI research, which detrimentally effects millions every year. Larry Glass, CEO ofNeuren Pharmaceuticals Ltd. says that TBI is second only to hemorrhage as a cause of death for soldiers serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Glass believes that while there are initial complications and expenses involved, “the potential for returns are phenomenal” which is why his company is partnering with the U.S. Army to develop the drug NNZ-2566. This drug will hopefully work to prevent secondary damage to brain cells, reducing the degree of damage sustained by the initial TBI.
There is hope – in May lawmakers introduced a bill intended to add $75 million to the annual amount of federal TBI research funding. Not a significant amount when compared to the need, this money will still benefit some areas of vital development and research, perhaps providing the little bit extra needed for some lab to come up with the next wonder drug.
Young points out another potential avenue that companies can explore to advance their pharmaceuticals, “to exploit the crossover between orphan disorders.” By doing this, firms are able to work on two or more diseases at once, using their common elements to hopefully find potential cures for both. An example of this is Huntington’s disease and Alzheimer’sdisease. Both diseases share a common pathological hallmark that can potentially be treated with the same drug.
It’s frustrating to see pharmaceutical companies pursuing drugs that target the wealthy such as those for erectile dysfunction and longevity, while ignoring research into topics that affect millions who don’t have bottomless pockets. We can keep our fingers crossed that something with a significant profit potential is developed that can also benefit TBIs.