What's next for Alzheimer's disease research?

Last week, Biogen and Eisai halted two phase 3 clinical trials of its once-promising Alzheimer's disease drug, leading many people to ask — what now?

Here is a breakdown of how Alzheimer's disease research is progressing despite the latest setback, according to The Wall Street Journal.

  • Researchers will look to better understand the biology of Alzheimer's. Biogen and Eisai were attempting to develop a drug to target Beta amyloid, a substance long-known to accumulate in the brains of people with Alzheimer's. Drugs targeting Beta amyloid repeatedly have failed. As a result, researchers are trying to better understand the biology of Alzheimer's to explore the use of drugs with alternative mechanisms of action.

  • Plaque-targeting drugs will continue to be tested. The industry will not give up on targeting  Beta-amyloid plaque buildup, because data showing that the plaque plays a  role in the disease and are too strong to abandon. The day after Biogen and Eisai disclosed failure of one of their drugs, they announced they were beginning a late-stage trial of another drug aimed at clearing the plaque.

  • Smaller companies approaching Alzheimer's.  Denali Therapeutics, a startup in South San Francisco, is developing a drug that targets inflammation to treat the disease.  Alector, a South San Francisco-based company, is working on a drug to slow or reverse the deterioration of neurons in the brains of Alzheimer's patients by improving the brain's immune system.

  • Research funding. The National Institutes of Health is planning to fund about $2.3 billion in Alzheimer's research this year,  up from about $1.9 billion in 2018. Leslie Norins, PhD, a former infectious disease researcher, and his wife are offering a $1 million prize to anyone who can find evidence that an infectious agent may be the cause or contribute to Alzheimer's.

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