An Alzheimer’s Treatment on the Horizon?

Biogen Inc.’s recent revelation of promising early data from an experimental Alzheimer’s treatment is something of a breakthrough: it’s the first time that we have seen positive human data about a new Alzheimer’s drug that can both reduce the presence of amyloid plaques in the brain and improve cognitive function.

An estimated 5.3 million Americans are believed to be living with Alzheimer’s and currently there are no FDA-approved drugs that slow or prevent the neurodegenerative disease.

In the past, despite early stage (phase 2) positive results, late-stage Alzheimer’s research has repeatedly failed in expensive phase 3 tests, so when Biogen, a Cambridge, Massachusetts biotech company, announced some of the most promising Alzheimer’s phase 1b results it grabbed our attention.

We routinely hear hype about potential new drugs for Alzheimer’s disease. What’s often missing from the reporting is the fact that these drugs are typically only at the “preclinical” stage of research. This means that a new drug is being studied in test tubes or animal models for its effect on simulations of Alzheimer’s disease.

Drugs at this stage might offer great promise for patients with Alzheimer’s, but they’re a long way from testing in humans and any chance of FDA-approval. Biogen’s results suggest that attacking amyloid may be a therapeutic strategy that could be available for patients living with Alzheimer’s disease in the next few years.

The drug, called aducanumab, is a monoclonal antibody vaccine — a large biological agent that needs to be administered intravenously, probably every month. Most FDA-approved drugs are small molecules, which can be ingested in pill form. The Biogen compound is similar to the molecules the immune system normally produces in response to infections or to clear debris from areas of injured tissue. These antibodies are very specific to their beta-amyloid target, which are involved —> Read More