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Alzheimers Dement (N Y) 2020 Jun 14; 6(1):e12038







Introduction: Preclinical testing in animal models is a critical component of the drug discovery and development process. While hundreds of interventions have demonstrated preclinical efficacy for ameliorating cognitive impairments in animal models, none have confirmed efficacy in Alzheimer's disease (AD) clinical trials. Critically this lack of translation to the clinic points in part to issues with the animal models, the preclinical assays used, and lack of scientific rigor and reproducibility during execution. In an effort to improve this translation, the Preclinical Testing Core (PTC) of the Model Organism Development and Evaluation for Late-onset AD (MODEL-AD) consortium has established a rigorous screening strategy with go/no-go decision points that permits unbiased assessments of therapeutic agents.

Methods: An initial screen evaluates drug stability, formulation, and pharmacokinetics (PK) to confirm appreciable brain exposure in the disease model at the pathologically relevant ages, followed by pharmacodynamics (PD) and predictive PK/PD modeling to inform the dose regimen for long-term studies. The secondary screen evaluates target engagement and disease modifying activity using non-invasive positron emission tomography/magnetic resonance imaging (PET/MRI). Provided the compound meets its "go" criteria for these endpoints, evaluation for efficacy on behavioral endpoints are conducted.

Results: Validation of this pipeline using tool compounds revealed the importance of critical quality control (QC) steps that researchers need to be aware of when executing preclinical studies. These include confirmation of the active pharmaceutical ingredient and at the precise concentration expected; and an experimental design that is well powered and in line with the Animal Research Reporting of In vivo Experiments (ARRIVE) guidelines.

Discussion: Taken together our experience executing a rigorous screening strategy with QC checkpoints provides insight to the challenges of conducting translational studies in animal models. The PTC pipeline is a National Institute on Aging (NIA)-supported resource accessible to the research community for investigators to nominate compounds for testing (, and these resources will ultimately enable better translational studies to be conducted.