Chief Huntington’s disease drug hunter: ‘every confidence first treatments’ in the works

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Surveying the vast progress in Huntington’s disease research and a “blitz” of clinical trials now in progress, a key scientific leader in the efforts has predicted that they will produce treatments for the incurable neurological disorder.

“I have every confidence that this batch of clinical candidates that are now being tested are going to yield the first treatments for Huntington’s,” said Robert Pacifici, Ph.D., the chief scientific officer for CHDI, the multi-million-dollar non-profit virtual HD biotech.

Dr. Pacifici’s remarks came in an interview on February 24 in Palm Springs, CA, at the organization’s 11th Annual HD Therapeutics Conference, sponsored by CHDI Foundation, Inc., the backer of the initiative.

Nobody can foretell the result of a clinical trial, and Dr. Pacifici did not specify a timeline for an effective treatment reaching the market. However, he offered examples of the immense progress towards developing treatments.

“It’s really frustrating for people, I know, to say, ‘That’s good news, that’s good news, but where’s the treatment, where are the drugs?’” Dr. Pacifici said. “The thing I would point to is that so many of the things we said were going to happen actually have happened. And so many of the things that have happened have actually yielded the outcome that we wanted.”

Dr. Pacifici cited three recent key advances: the ongoing research in biomarkers (signals) to measure the efficacy of potential drugs’ in reducing the harmful presence of abnormal huntingtin protein in brain cells; major progress in identifying modifier genes that delay or hasten disease onset; and the start of clinical trials.

The trials post the most “difficult” challenge in the process, he said.

“We want to make sure that we do things in a way that obviously is very careful,” he said, explaining the primacy of drug safety. “The last thing we want to do is harm anybody.”

Noting that the search for drugs has no guarantees, Dr. Pacifici nevertheless concluded that these are “exciting times” for the community of HD families, researchers, and supporters of the cause.

You can watch my interview with Dr. Pacifici in the video below.

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Source: At Risk for Huntington’s Disease

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