Monday, March 18, 2013

Working together towards cures for rare diseases

By Karlee Stewart, Communications Coordinator at FasterCures

7,000 different types of rare diseases and disorders
          1 in 10 Americans suffers from a rare disease
                    95% of rare diseases do not have a single FDA approved drug
                                        The numbers don’t add up.

“Take on the voice that I’m sharing with you today, reach out to your fellow patient advocates who frequently don’t see beyond their own situation and help them understand the bigger systematic challenges we all face.” – Hugh Hempel, The Addi and Cassi Fund 

On February 28, 2013 we joined friends and colleagues in the rare disease community to commemorate Rare Disease Day, the culmination of a week's worth of activities to bring widespread recognition of rare diseases as a global health challenge. 

This year, we were lucky enough to be a part of a major event here in DC kick-starting the week and celebrating the screening of Here.Us.Now a documentary highlighting the Hempel Family and their struggle to save their twin daughters, Addi and Cassi, who are living with Neiman Pick Type C. To learn more about the Hempel’s journey, check out their Time=Lives story 

The documentary focuses on the pitfalls of an ineffective system for patients with rare diseases who have hit a wall in the search for treatment options or a cure. It features prominent members of the medical research community from academia, pharma, biotech, and patient groups calling for change in this uncommunicative and slow system.

Panel moderated by Margaret Anderson
Following the screening, we heard from National Center for Accelerating Translational Science (NCATS) Director Chris Austin during a panel moderated by Margaret Anderson. “The bad news is that there are at least 5,000 more disease like [Addi and Cassi’s] that when doctors like me see them in the clinic, all you can say is please come back to me when you need supportive care.”

Answers are what the Hempels, and others like them, are looking for. However, because rare disease research today is so siloed and disease-specific, communication between groups is limited, leading to occasional duplication of research efforts and time wasted in a world where there’s no time to waste.

“Reach out to your fellow advocates and rally them together for rare disease research,” Hugh Hempel urged the panel’s audience, “We find ourselves fighting over crumbs from funding from the NIH…let’s work together.” 

Hempel said the biggest issue that smaller, disease-specific groups have is not working together for one ultimate purpose, cures.

Besides an insightful talk and plans for collaboration between advocacy groups, here are some outcomes from Rare Disease Week: 
  • Boehringer Ingelheim collaboration with PatientsLikeMe on the rare lung condition idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF.) The partnership will provide “a customized experience for its users that will allow them to monitor their health and progress over time and connect with other to learn more about the condition.” 
FasterCures was pleased to participate in RDLA's 3rd Annual Rare Disease Cocktail Reception and Movie Screening
Make sure to join FasterCures on Wednesday, March 20 for our FREE Webinar, Building New Patient-Centered Research Networks: The T1D Exchange and Registries for All Diseases and learn about: 
  • The T1D Exchange, which consists of an integrated clinic network of more than 65 clinics across the U.S., a biorepository, and Glu, an online community with mobile capabilities for people touched by type 1 diabetes. Its mission is to improve outcomes in the community by facilitating better care and accelerating new therapies on the path to a cure.
  • Registries for All Diseases (Reg4All), which recently won the Sanofi Collaborate/Activate challenge – a cross-disease, crowdsourced registry that promises to break down the silos between diseases and gather information from patients in a standardized way.

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