By Darryle Schoepp, Vice President, Neuroscience Discovery Pre-Clinical Early Development, Merck

For all we have accomplished in neuroscience, our understanding of human brain function and the diseases that affect it remains a tremendous challenge for researchers. In the research world we often wonder if we have uncovered more than one percent of what there is to know about the brain and the diseases that impact it.

As a result of this complexity, developing new medicines to treat neurological disorders has been associated with many setbacks along the way. In Alzheimer’s disease, for example, between 1998 and 2014 there were 123 unsuccessful attempts to develop treatments and just four approvals. Though deeply disappointing for both patients and researchers, these setbacks offer important insights that inform and redirect future research efforts. Patients with neurological conditions have a tremendous need for new treatments. Our industry is committed to tackling these devastating and complex conditions.

That is why in support of Brain Awareness Week (March 13-19), we are joining the national effort to raise awareness on the efforts and tremendous achievements in brain research. There is extensive work being done to study the brain and neurological diseases, which impact tens of millions of people across the country. This encompasses everything from Alzheimer’s disease to Parkinson’s disease, Lou Gehrig’s disease (also known as ALS), and multiple sclerosis. Brain Awareness Week is an important reminder of the commitment of thousands of scientists across the nation, all working to develop new treatments.

I’ve spent my entire career studying neuroscience, and I have seen some great discoveries provide people important treatments. We are constantly looking to advance the complex science and the future has never looked more promising. The medicines in development for neurological disorders include:

  • 94 medicines for chronic pain, which affects 100 million Americans;
  • 59 medicines for Alzheimer’s disease, which affects more than 5 million Americans;
  • 58 for brain tumors, including gliomas, which represent 80 percent of all malignant tumors;
  • 33 medicines for multiple sclerosis, which affects as many as 500,000 Americans;
  • 31 medicines for Parkinson’s disease, which affects as many as 1 million Americans;
  • 22 medicines for epilepsy and seizures, which affect nearly 3 million Americans.

America’s biopharmaceutical companies are proud to lead the effort in developing new therapies. For every risk we take, for every clinical trial setback, we learn something new and are moving closer to key discoveries that will be game changing for patients.