By Briana Vannozzi
“We know that Alzheimer’s disease is a chronic, inevitably progressive, ultimately fatal, neuro-degenerative disease,” said Dr. Howard Fillit, founding executive director and chief science officer for the Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation.
But for the first time in modern history, researchers can say they’ve got a pulse on the disease. With new drugs and ideas in the pipeline for treating and possibly preventing Alzheimer’s.
At a two-day conference in Jersey City put on by the Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation, doctors from around the world presented programs ranging from early stage drug discovery all the way through clinical trials.
“We’re going to see a combination of therapy for Alzheimer’s disease down the road where we’re going to need drugs that hit multiple targets,” Fillit said.
One of those drugs might be AGB101. Sharon Rosenzweig-Lipson presented findings on the repurposing of an epilepsy drug — at a lower dosage — to treat the disease.
“When Keppra is used in epilepsy, you can imagine, in epilepsy, you have lots of circuits that are overactive in the system. What we want to do is exquisitely target this hippocampal entorhinal cortex system and turn off that over activity only in this limited circuit so that we’re not affecting the whole brain, but rather this circuit that’s impaired in the disease,” she said.
It’s positioned for Phase III clinical trials and has the potential to intervene with brain degeneration — up to 10 years before full onset.
“Repurposing of existing drugs is really the way to go we think. I’m a pharmacologist. I work on drug molecules. And a great many drug molecules look fantastic in pre-clinical testing. When they go through into patients they fail for fairly mundane reasons,” said Atticus H. Hainsworth, senior lecturer, cerebrovascular disease at St. George’s University of London.
Existing drugs have already gone through the trial and error phases. Hainsworth is conducting research on the use of tadalafil — commonly known as Cialis — to treat vascular dementia, the second most prevalent cause.
“To take a drug from, a novel drug where you have to go through the usual routine of high throughput screening and medicinal chemistry, that’s 12 to 15 years and let’s say $2 billion. With a repurposing drug, we could get an answer in three years, for several million dollars,” Fillit said.
The foundation’s founder, Fillit explains great strides have been made in clinical trials thanks to new brain imaging technology through ADDF.
“Which enables us as clinicians, for example, to actually diagnosis Alzheimer’s in a living person without doing a brain biopsy or autopsy,” he said.
A lot of money and research has been poured into what’s called anti-amyloid treatment. That’s the protein buildup believed to be the main culprit in causing Alzheimer’s. Though today’s conference focused mainly on the biology of aging and the disease. And putting resources into what Dr. Fillit calls a shots on goal approach. Creating many options, so doctors will eventually score.