Signs of optimism for neurodegeneration research

On Monday, September 8th 2014 I had the pleasure of meeting several GliaCure investors at our annual shareholders’ meeting. In addition to dealing with the normal business of this meeting we were able to update the shareholders on our latest progress and on our timeline for plans for 2015.

I am always thrilled by the excitement of our investors. Most are non-scientists, but many ask very probing questions, which I enjoy. Some can be hesitant to speak up at first, but when they do their questions are normally right on topic, and at times difficult to answer.

One question in particular comes up frequently: Why have there been so many failures in clinical trials for Alzheimer’s disease? Of course, no one will know the answer to this until a clinical trial is successful and we can reflect using 20/20 hindsight. However, despite the lack of concrete answers these dialogues can be very helpful as they allow investors to appreciate the difficulties in this area of research yet, at the same time, enable investors to signal their enthusiasm to continue along this difficult path.

Beyond the boundaries of our small company two recent news items reflect this optimism. 

Google and brain disorders?

You may ask: What does Google have to do with research into brain disorders? A new partnership has recently been announced between AbbVie and Google’s Calico that will cost up to $1.5 billion to get started. This intriguing arrangement is targeted to the discovery of new drugs focused on diseases of aging, including neurodegeneration and cancer. Calico is an extremely interesting and largely unknown new biotech, although with the backing of Google it obviously has deep pockets. You can learn more at http://www.calicolabs.com/news/2014/09/03/

AstraZeneca and Eli Lilly

These two companies have struck a partnership for the commercial development of a BACE inhibitor, AZD3293, for Alzheimer’s disease. Together the two companies intend to take AZD3293 rapidly through Phase 2/3 clinical trials. BACE is an enzyme associated with the production of beta amyloid, a toxic species in AD. By inhibiting BACE the two companies’ goal is to reduce the production of beta amyloid and thus to effectively treat patients. While this single target approach to reducing amyloid beta has failed previously, there is still strong data to support such reduction as a therapeutic approach. It is reassuring to see two such high profile companies make such a significant investment in the development of treatments for Alzheimer’s disease.