The FINANCIAL — There once was a man who mistook his wife for a hat. In his book, The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat, renowned neurologist Dr. Oliver Sacks recounts the case histories of patients lost in the inescapable world of neurological disorders. For Roy Yaari, M.D., neurologist and senior medical advisor at Lilly, this book sparked his initial interest in the brain and the study of neurology.
After medical school, Yaari completed a residency in neurology at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), where he sought to learn more about clinical research. As he was walking down the hall at UCSD to sign up for an epilepsy fellowship, he bumped into Adam Fleisher, M.D. who persuaded Yaari that an Alzheimer’s disease fellowship would lend better to his interest in clinical trials. That brief run-in led Yaari to a two-year fellowship at UCSD in the Alzheimer’s Disease Cooperative Study (ADCS), where he developed a close connection with patients living with Alzheimer’s disease.
“As a physician, I really fell in love with treating Alzheimer’s patients,” says Yaari. “They’re obviously going through a lot, but many of them have a strong support system to help them along the way.”
Yaari’s first job after his fellowship was at the Banner Alzheimer’s Institute, where he helped build the clinic as the first physician hired to see patients. For eight years, Yaari treated Alzheimer’s disease patients and learned how to care for and educate their families. During that time, diagnostic and clinical research took a major leap forward with the introduction of brain-imaging scans to identify beta-amyloid, a pathological hallmark of the disease. In recent years, researchers have used PET imaging to determine the subset of patients to include in clinical trials. For example, certain trials may only enroll amyloid-positive patients to determine the efficacy of an investigational medicine, according to LillyPad.
Now, going on three years as a Lilly scientist, Yaari is involved in two pivotal Alzheimer’s disease clinical trials: the Anti-Amyloid Treatment in Asymptomatic Alzheimer’s (A4) study, which studies the effect of solanezumab on people who are asymptomatic but have elevated brain amyloid, and the Dominantly Inherited Alzheimer Network Trials Unit (DIAN-TU) study, which tests solanezumab in people with a rare genetic mutations that cause early-onset Alzheimer’s disease.
Studies like A4 and DIAN-TU, in addition to other large Alzheimer’s drug trials, are vitally important to test for proof of concept of investigational drugs, but also enable people to contribute to this greater cause.
“People who enroll in clinical trials feel like they’re contributing to the bigger picture,” says Yaari. “Clinical trial participants not only benefit people living with Alzheimer’s, but also contribute to the greater good of society, which also feels the impact of this rapidly growing disease.”
Yaari is optimistic about the future of Alzheimer’s disease research, as scientists continue to learn more about the disease pathology and work to develop more advanced diagnostic tools to aid in clinical trial design. He’s also confident in Lilly’s collaborative and innovative approach to treating Alzheimer’s disease, while ensuring patients’ needs are top priority.
“Lilly is on the forefront of clinical research for Alzheimer’s,” says Yaari. “It’s a pretty cool place to be.”