by Joyce Cramer, ETP President
We are delighted about the excitement created by our Epilepsy Pipeline: Portal Into CNS conference held in San Francisco on March 13, 2008. We achieved our goal of informing scientific, clinical, industry and investment thought leaders about the potential for success in epilepsy drug and device development. Bringing them together to listen, learn, meet and share ideas was our investment in keeping all of these groups interested in better treatments for the 3-4 million people with epilepsy in the USA and more than 10 million worldwide. This is how ETP can help improve the lives of those whose seizures are not well controlled and have side-effects from treatments.
The one-day program started with an overview of every aspect of drug and device development. (The audio-visual presentations will be made available in this area of our website soon.) The program highlighted that epilepsy therapies also are a good starting point for treatment of other neurological and psychiatric disorders.
- The keynote speaker, a renowned psychiatrist-pharmacologist, described the common pathways by which epilepsy treatments also are effective in psychiatric disorders.
- Epilepsy experts described progress in how drugs are tested in animal models to determine whether they might be effective against seizures, how well-known drugs can evolve into better compounds, what new drugs are being developed with novel mechanisms, how drugs can be made into formulations other than tablets, and new devices that can alter electrical activity.
- The mid-day session was an exciting review of the research "pipeline." Seventeen new therapies were featured with succinct presentations explaining what each will bring to the epilepsy community. Some are drugs designed to treat defects in brain signaling, a few are new ways to deliver drugs in emergencies, others are novel approaches to altering genes that control brain signals, and some are devices that may detect seizures before they spread, sending either a drug or an electrical discharge to prevent the spread of the signal. Each potential therapy had a fascinating explanation of how it works and what it might accomplish for patients.
- The afternoon included panel discussions among investors, pharmaceutical company development and epilepsy experts. Panelists addressed specific issues on how to expand interest in epilepsy as a commercially enticing market in order to increase new therapy development. They also considered the "Value Proposition in Epilepsy and Beyond" as the cost of development through to FDA approval as a major drawback if the epilepsy market is considered small.
- The day concluded with my overview of what the Epilepsy Therapy Project offers to the emerging companies and investors to facilitate their development of new treatments: ETP as a partner with scientists, entrepreneurs, investors, and the pharmaceutical-biotechnology industries. I explained that the ETP and the epilepsy community need all of them and we at ETP will serve all of them as a facilitator to promote development of new therapies.
The good news is:
- Although we already have more than 15 approved therapies for epilepsy, so many scientists are continuing to search for new approaches.
The bad news is:
- It takes many years to reach patients because of all the stages of research required for FDA approval.
The worst news is:
- Most of the "pipeline" drugs will fail to reach patients because the scientists and entrepreneurs in very small start-up companies will not have enough money to pursue their ideas (no matter how promising). The current FDA requirements require many millions of dollars that are difficult to raise when investors could go to much larger markets such as hypertension, asthma, etc.
This is an important point for us in the epilepsy community when we face a need to serve the million or more people whose seizures are poorly controlled and another million who suffer from adverse effects of current drugs. We will have to raise the funds ourselves!
Epilepsy Therapy Project awards grants to help move these new ideas forward, but we do not have enough money to support all of them. In fact, we award only a half-dozen grants yearly. Our grants differ from government (NIH) grants and those given by other organizations because we focus on therapies that can be commercialized – to reach patients.
You can help us to support more of these promising new ideas! Every dollar of your donation will be used for this purpose. Please donate now and ask your friends & family to donate with you. It’s the only way we can assure that the epilepsy community does not miss an opportunity to find better treatments. You may donate online here on our secure website http://www.epilepsy.com/epilepsy/donation_form, or by mail using the form at http://www.epilepsy.com/pdfs/donation_form.pdf
Joyce Cramer, President
Epilepsy Therapy Project
March 21, 2008