The recent Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Disease Conference (ADPD) demonstrated that it is an exciting time for drug development in Parkinson’s disease. 

Parkinson’s disease is being redefined by alpha synuclein biology, and it is following Alzheimer’s disease and Huntington’s disease in seeing a new focus on early diagnosis and treatment to maximize the potential of treatments that slow progression of these devastating conditions.  

As yet, however, there is no agreement on a regulatory framework for a disease-modifying treatment. Several drug candidates are in the late stages of development and are showing signs of slowing disease progression. Both in-clinic and at-home assessments are implemented to measure this.  

The MDS-Unified Parkinson’s Disease Ratings Scale (MDS-UPDRS) is the most commonly used in-clinic assessment, and while it touches on a wide range of Parkinson’s Disease symptoms and impacts, it is not sensitive or balanced enough for drug development. Frequent at-home assessments remain one of the easiest and most effective tests for detecting change over time.

What is the right way of measuring the holistic disease burden on the lives of people with Parkinson’s disease? How should cognition; social and behavioral effects; and autonomic functions be incorporated into that consideration? What about patients’ own feelings about their daily life? At ADPD, and throughout current PD efforts, we need to be asking, “What will new treatments – and cures – for Parkinson’s disease look and feel like?” We should bring data science and clinical science together to quantify holistic meaningfulness.  And that will be the common goal post for drug developers.