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Singapore firm starts new Alzheimer's drug trials

LONDON (Reuters) - TauRx Therapeutics, a privately held biotech company based in Singapore, has launched two late-stage clinical studies testing a new kind of experimental drug against Alzheimer's.

Its LMTX drug aims to attack the memory-robbing disease by blocking the build-up of a protein called tau that forms twisted fibers and tangles inside brain cells.

Many scientists believe tau is an important cause of Alzheimer's, alongside another protein known as amyloid that has been the main focus of drug development efforts to date.

Several large pharmaceutical companies are looking at tau-targeted drugs, including Switzerland's Roche, which in June bought the rights to a tau treatment from another private biotech firm, AC Immune of Lausanne.

TauRx said on Tuesday that one Phase III study of LMTX would involve 833 people with mild to moderate Alzheimer's disease tracked over 12 months, while the second would include 500 people with mild disease studied over 18 months.

The trials have already starting enrolling in the United States. They will also recruit patients in Europe and Asia.

The decision to move into Phase III testing - the last stage before a drug is approved for use - follows encouraging Phase II studies with a related product called rember. LMTX delivers the same active substance into the bloodstream as rember but in a more efficient manner, the company said.

The start of the latest tests was announced at the Clinical Trials Conference on Alzheimer's Disease in Monaco, where scientists have also been poring over findings with Eli Lilly's drug solanezumab.

The Lilly medicine, targeting amyloid, failed to significantly arrest progression of Alzheimer's in two Phase III studies, results of which were reported in August, but further analysis suggests amyloid was removed from the brain as intended.

(Reporting by Ben Hirschler; Editing by Helen Massy-Beresford)

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