Our Plan for Reinventing Alzheimer’s Disease R&D at UC San Diego

Opinion

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extraordinary resources of UC San Diego, the University of California and its research partners. One of UC San Diego’s great strengths, a factor that distinguishes us from other academic institutions, is our unabashed and abiding enthusiasm to work with others toward a common goal for the common good. Our physicians and scientists have a long history of successful collaborations with renowned peers at the Salk Institute for Biological Sciences, The Scripps Research Institute, and Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute. We recently signed a major affiliation agreement with the La Jolla Institute of Allergy and Immunology.

We share academic appointments, grants, students, and insights. We work with international pharmaceutical companies and local biotech startups. ADCS will be a greater part of this mix. It can happen in many ways:  through the involvement of students who provide limitless vigor and fresh ideas; through unprecedented affiliations with foundations, advocacy groups, technology and insurance companies and others who share our mission; and through bold, equitable collaborations with similar academic institutions, such as our sister UC campuses, San Diego State University and beyond. Each school brings its own set of strengths and resources.

Over the last few months the University of California has been locked in an unfortunate legal proceeding. We have alleged in our lawsuit that former ADCS director Paul Aisen and members of his team, along with his new employer, the University of Southern California (USC), took custody and control over ADCS data and computer systems that belong to UC San Diego. Aisen and USC continue to control these data and systems and to deny custody and control to UC San Diego that we need to manage Alzheimer’s research and clinical trials under the ADCS program.

In a preliminary injunction issued Aug. 5, a Superior Court judge ordered Aisen and USC to restore the ADCS data and systems to the custody and control of UC San Diego. We look forward to their compliance with the court’s instructions.

The court case continues, with what we believe are serious ethical and legal breaches by Aisen and USC still to be resolved. We did not want to go to court, and would have preferred to follow the customary procedures for departing faculty. Litigation was a last resort, part of our obligation to protect not just the integrity of the ADCS, its trials and visionary work, but the role and responsibilities of public research universities.

USC should follow the example of UC San Diego in creating the ADCS: Do the work. Despite recent legal issues, UC San Diego faculty and staff—the heart of ADCS—continue to quietly and expertly administer daily needs in such core clinical areas as biomarkers, imaging, and statistics, which are elemental to assuring the safe conduct of trials at more than 100 test sites across the country and world. The ADCS work is done only at UC San Diego.

This is not big science. It is good science and ethical science. Recent events are upsetting. The process of righting what we believe are serious wrongs will likely be neither easy nor pleasant. But we must persevere because our ultimate goal is too important, not just for the millions of Americans who suffer from Alzheimer’s disease, but for everyone touched by it and whose struggles motivate the hard work and contributions of enterprises like ADCS.

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