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Dr Maria Herva

Group Leader, Early Discovery, Charles River Laboratories (CRL)

New directions for dementia research are opening up, and the necessary resources are already being made available.


“Dementia research is getting exciting again, with many different possibilities opening up for new discoveries,” says Dr Maria Herva, a Group Leader in the Early Discovery arm of research services provider Charles River Laboratories (CRL).

“There was a downturn in research, especially by large pharma, following disappointing results of drug trials based on the ‘amyloid hypothesis’ – the assumption that accumulation of the peptide amyloid-β is a leading cause of Alzheimer’s.” The recurring question now is: ‘What can we learn from these failures to develop the translational strategies that prevent this happening again?’

Future looking bright for dementia research

Dr Herva says that this is an opportunity for a new beginning. “Things are looking brighter now, as there are many new targets for dementia coming from different “omics” approaches and big data analysis. We have also seen a significant improvement in communication between academia and industry experts that can only bode well for the future”.

“We have to understand more about the molecular mechanisms that lead to neurodegeneration, including the roles of different proteins and different types of brain cells – such as astrocytes and microglia – as well as the causes of neuroinflammation.”

Cutting edge technologies

At CRL, we are committed to continue investigating those mechanisms by working in partnership with our clients to progress their therapeutic programmes. We tailor our support by screening in-house and client drug libraries in custom-designed, robust biochemical and cellular assays targeting specific biological pathways,” says Herva.

CRL invests in cutting edge technologies that allows us to be at the forefront of dementia research, and on recruiting the right people to carry out that research, Herva says.

“Motivated scientists with solid backgrounds in neurodegeneration and neuroinflammation, genome engineering, patient derived stem cells, who are driven to work to the highest standards, with the goal to deliver the holy grail of a disease-modifying therapy for dementia”.

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