March 21, 2012. In observance of March 21, World Down Syndrome Day, the Jérôme Lejeune Foundation is preparing a report on the latest significant advances in therapeutic research for intellectual disabilities of genetic origin. Fifty years after the prestigious Kennedy Prize was awarded to Professor Jérôme Lejeune in 1962, the remarkable progress made in recent years confirms that it will be possible to treat trisomy 21 in the near future. Since its creation in 1996, the Jérôme Lejeune Foundation has played a decisive role on the international scene, making France a leader in the field of research on trisomy 21.
INTERNATIONAL DOWN SYNDROME DAY RECOGNIZED BY THE UN: WEDNESDAY, MARCH 21, 2012
On November 10, 2011, the United Nations declared March 21 “World Down Syndrome Day”. The purpose of this day is to inform the public and to raise awareness about Down syndrome. The date “3/21” is highly symbolic, referring directly to the 3 copies of chromosome 21 that is the cause of the syndrome and of the mental disability of persons living with Down syndrome.
GIANT STEPS FORWARD IN THERAPEUTIC RESEARCH: THE ERA OF CLINICAL TRIALS
Several scientific research teams in different countries of the world are currently investigating treatments for trisomy 21 with the financial support of the Jérôme Lejeune Foundation. The first clinical trial on Down syndrome patients began in 2011. Today there are five. What seemed unthinkable ten years ago has become possible today, and the promising results that have been observed suggest that treatments could be discovered within a decade. The therapeutic objective is to develop preventive care, or treatments, that would improve and then normalize the cognitive ability of the patients. Research teams, often working in cooperation with one another, continue to explore the greatest possible number of avenues for treatment. The advent of clinical trials clearly signals a new era in Down syndrome research.
Dr. Mara Dierssen, winner of the 2010 International Sisley-Jérôme Lejeune Prize, is now launching the second phase of her clinical trial on a larger sampling of patients in Barcelona. The clinical trial announced by ROCHE at the end of 2011 is largely due to observations first made in the lab of Dr. William Mobley, of the University of California, San Diego. Dr. Mobley was the 2011 winner of the International Sisley-Jérôme Lejeune Prize and chairs the Jérôme Lejeune USA Foundation’s Scientific Advisory Committee. These two researchers were presenters at the International Jérôme Lejeune Conference in April 2011, a scientific congress attended by over 200 experts and interdisciplinary researchers from around the world.
An affiliate of the Jérôme Lejeune Foundation is currently being established in the United States. This international project undertaking of the Foundation will bring the European and American research communities closer together to provide greater synergy and an acceleration of the pace toward targeted treatments for Down syndrome and other genetic intellectual disabilities.
The Jérôme Lejeune Foundation in the US and France greets this first World Down Syndrome Day with great excitement, and with a debt of gratitude to the many advocacy organizations world-wide who have worked on behalf of individuals living with Down syndrome. This is truly a promising and hopeful time for families who have waited many years for the research to bear fruit. At last we can say with certainty, therapeutic treatments to address the intellectual disabilities associated with Down syndrome are within our grasp!