Part of Bernard Ravina’s job at Biogen Idec is to address one of the major challenges of Parkinson’s disease drug development – How to translate findings from early stage research into clinical studies in patients.
MJFF spoke with Bernard for the second installment of our new feature, Three Questions for a Researcher. Read on to get to know him and his work a little better.
MJFF: What is the biggest challenge you face in your research today?
BR: I work in a group at Biogen Idec that focuses on developing new therapeutics for neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s disease (PD). There are many potential approaches to slowing or treating disease progression in PD. Perhaps the single biggest challenge that comes up in every program is translating findings about a potential treatment from pre-clinical models to clinical trials in patients. We know that the pre-clinical models only recapitulate certain aspects of a complex disease and that we have limited tools to monitor the underlying disease process in patients. Therefore we spend much of our effort looking for ways to bridge that gap with a variety of brain imaging tests or other biological measures, such as biomarkers.
MJFF: What is one thing people would be surprised to know about your daily work with PD?
BR: I am a clinical researcher but I spend much of my daily work talking with lab-based scientists and reviewing pre-clinical data. Before coming to Biogen Idec, I ran and was involved in a lot of clinical trials and so spent my time working with patients or data from clinical studies. Given the many studies that have failed to slow the progression of PD, my focus is on finding the right drugs to test, making sure they get to the target area in the brain at adequate levels, and that we have the tools to test what those drugs are actually doing in patients.
MJFF: How do you unwind after work?
BR: I have three kids so unwinding is not really on the menu most days. Interesting things are always happening from tennis to recitals. Fortunately, my wife is a great cook and loves to cook which is a great match for a group that loves to eat. A good meal always slows us down…at least temporarily.