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Biotech 2008 Neuroscience Investors Conference: Investing in Brain Research

Thursday, Sept. 18, 7:45 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Baltimore Marriott Waterfront
700 Aliceanna St.

More than 20 world-renowned scientists and industry leaders presented the current state of neurobiology research and discussed challenges of speeding drug discovery for brain diseases.  The audience included more than 200 research scientists, leaders in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries, business development executives, venture capitalists, investment bankers, and consulting and legal service providers.

More than 10 million Americans suffer from chronic neurological and psychiatric diseases, including amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and Huntington’s diseases, ataxias and other degenerative conditions that lead to dementia.

According to the World Health Organization, by 2020 mental and neurological disorders will account for 14 percent of the global burden of disease. The personal and economic effects of these diseases are enormous.  Although some of the diseases like Parkinson’s disease have effective symptomatic therapies, there are no therapies that significantly alter the course of these diseases. Thus, there is an urgent need to find treatments and cures.  It is estimated that effective treatments could represent a $100 billion market.

Yet drug discovery is expensive and challenging but traditionally has been most daunting in the realm of brain diseases, strokes, brain injuries and other neurological conditions. Unlike cancer, in which the goal of drug therapy is to kill cells that grow uncontrollably, most brain diseases are degenerative and require drugs to keep brain and nerve cells alive.

The challenges in drug development, the current state of brain research and what’s on the horizon will be discussed and presented at this investors’ conference, which aims to educate and inform nonscientists.

The Brain Science Institute at Johns Hopkins Medicine launched the NeuroTranslational Program in an effort to bring more new drugs to the market by fostering more frequent interactions between Johns Hopkins brain researchers and the pharmaceutical industry. Speakers at this conference explained the drug discovery pipeline, common hurdles and how to overcome them, and how best to streamline the process to move therapy forward.

Sponsors of the conference included: Forest City-New East Baltimore Partnership; Merck and Company Inc.; DLA Piper; Edwards, Angell, Palmer and Dodge; and BioCentury.