New project examining FDA-approved drugs for Alzheimer’s, worries over research remains

pharmafile | January 10, 2018 | News story | Research and Development Alzheimer's, biotech, drugs, pharma, pharmaceutical 

It’s been a gloomy period for research into Alzheimer’s disease treatments in the last week, Pfizer announced it would be shuttering its neuroscience division and Axovant’s drug candidate tanked.

It’s led to some serious worries over the development of potential treatments in the future, as company’s become increasingly wary over the costs involved and the lack of success in the area.

This is why a new project by researchers from Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, funding by $2.8 million grant from the National Institute on Aging, offers some hope.

The team will be trying to identify FDA-approved treatments that may be able be repurposed to target Alzheimer’s. The researchers will develop computer algorithms to scan existing drug databases to identify candidates that may hold potential therapeutic benefits.

Building upon work done previously by Rong Xu, principal investigator, they will expand DrugPredict, a program that connects drug characteristics with information about how interactions may occur with human proteins, to be capable of finding candidates within Alzheimer’s.

In particular, the project will home in on compounds that are able to cross the blood-brain barrier.

“Finding drugs that can pass the blood-brain barrier is the ‘holy grail’ for neurological drug discovery,” Xu said. “With this award, we will develop novel machine-learning and artificial intelligence algorithms to predict whether chemicals can pass the blood-brain barrier and whether they may be effective in treating Alzheimer’s disease.”

The research is badly needed, as Alzheimer’s groups sounded warnings over Pfizer’s recent decision to pull out of the area. Alzheimer’s Research UK, for instance, called for charities, the government and the industry to encourage companies to invest in the area,

While the CEO of MSD, known as Merck in North America, Kevin Frazier, recently spoke of his worries to Fox Business about the numbers of individuals that will be living with Alzheimer’s in the future.

He said, “If you live to 65, there is a 1 in 9 chance of having Alzheimer’s; if you live to 85, it’s a 1 in 3 chance[…]Soon, Alzheimer’s will cost [the US] almost $1 trillion.”

Ben Hargreaves

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