Health Care Quarterly:

A time capsule for brain disease: Celebrating the past and looking ahead to the future

A view of the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health Tuesday, February 7, 2012. The center was designed by architect Frank Gehry.

This year marks the 10th anniversary of Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health, and while the last Alzheimer’s disease drug was approved 15 years ago, some might wonder what researchers here at the center have been doing over the past decade to combat this grim statistic. We’ve been hard at work, providing care across a spectrum of brain diseases during 165,000 patient appointments, while simultaneously increasing our research efforts, conducting more than 70 clinical trials.

As I reflect back on the past decade of the Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health, I see great progress made. As I look ahead to the future, I am filled with hope for what lies on the horizon, made possible, in part, by the below clinical milestones:

Advanced imaging

Installation of Positron Emission Tomography imaging has allowed us to look at the brain like never before, visualizing the structure of the brain to observe changes on a cellular level, and enabling us to participate in clinical studies of new compounds with potential for early diagnosis. In 2013, the amyvid scan was FDA-approved to image amyloid plaque, a hallmark of AD, and is one of the biggest milestones in the research and treatment of the disease in the last decade. Being able to confirm and image amyloid plaque in the brain is one of three “puzzle pieces” we use to diagnose AD before death.


Ten years ago, the idea that we could prevent brain disease didn’t exist. Today, we see this concept as a trend in AD drug development with a growing number of clinical trials aimed at preventing the onset of disease. We know that modifiable lifestyle factors such as diet and exercise can potentially ward off brain disease, so in 2015 launched our platform. Based on six pillars of brain health, arms individuals with the tools they need to take a proactive approach to brain health, including a free brain health self-assessment, personalized reports with customized recommendations and brain health news.

Publishing annual AD pipeline paper

The center has become a leading voice in the AD drug development landscape with the publication of our annual Alzheimer’s Disease: Drug Development Pipeline paper, which draws attention to a 99.7% failure rate, while making recommendations for improvement. The 2019 issue of the paper revealed a surprising outcome: we’ve never seen more agents, more diversity of drugs targeting the disease or more funding in the pipeline, elevating us to an exciting and unprecedented state of drug development.