News Feature | July 22, 2014

Researchers Present Alzheimer's R&D At AAIC 2014

By Estel Grace Masangkay


Researchers from pharmaceutical companies and universities presented their latest data on Alzheimer’s R&D at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference 2014 (AAIC) that took place last week in Copenhagen, Denmark.

The conference focused on the development of preventive treatment for the devastating disease, which is projected to affect 65.7 million people around the world in 2030 and 115.4 million by 2050. The disease is characterized by progressive decline in thinking, memory, language, calculation, and other mental abilities. There is no currently no definitive cure for Alzheimer’s.

Among those that shared their work were collaborators Takeda and Zinfandel Pharmaceuticals, both of which presented their progress in developing new approaches in studying Alzheimer’s disease. These included data on programs which aim to delay onset of mild cognitive impairment (MCI) due to AD, identification of polymorphic structural variants linked with AD, and inferring a composite measure for delay of onset trial in MCI due to AD.

Stephen Brannan, Central Nervous System Development Therapeutic Area Head at Takeda, said, “Studies show that individuals with mild cognitive impairment — a slight, although noticeable and measurable decline in cognitive abilities — are at an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease or another dementia. An option to be able to predict an individual’s risk for developing this disease would be welcomed by the medical community.” Brannan said the companies will share updates on the TOMMORROW trial designed to try to identify effective therapeutic agents for the disease more quickly.

GE Healthcare presented its findings that show use of [18F]flutemetamol PET scans may help in predicting progression from amnestic MCI to possible AD. The company said that use of flutemetamol led to marked changes in diagnosis in about a fifth of patients undergoing a second study. Dr. Ger Brophy, CTO of Life Sciences at GE Healthcare, said, “Collectively, these data demonstrate the diagnostic value of [(18) F]flutemetamol and add to the growing body of evidence that it can help physicians identify the histopathology associated with an Alzheimer's disease diagnosis in specific patients.” Once flutemetamol receives approval in the EU, Dr. Brohpy said it will be a welcome assessment and research tool in AD and other cognitive diseases.

A Canadian research team led by Dr. Judes Poirier from the Douglas Mental Health Institute and McGill University in Montréal shared their findings from a study showing that natural genetic variants offered protection against a leading form of AD. Dr. Porier said, “We found that specific genetic variants in a gene called HMG CoA reductase, which normally regulates the production and mobilization of cholesterol in the brain, could change the process and delay the onset of Alzheimer's disease by almost four years.” He said that the findings are a breakthrough for AD research in the last few years.

Two researchers were also honored at the week-long AAIC assembly. These were Professor Steven G. Younkin of Neuroscience and Pharmacology at Mayo Clinic's campus in Florida and Dr. Kári Stefánsson, Founder, President, and CEO of deCODE genetics in Reykjavik Iceland. Dr. Maria Carrillo, VP of Medical and Scientific Relations at the Alzheimer's Association, said, “Through their significant contributions to the field of Alzheimer's and dementia research, these two scientists have had a positive impact on the Alzheimer's effort worldwide.”

The next AAIC will be held on July 18 to 23 in 2015 at Washington D.C. in the U.S.