Maintaining diversity in the distribution of dementia drugs
There’s no denying that progress has been made in dementia research in recent years, especially as it relates to Alzheimer’s disease, the most common type of dementia.
Two drugs designed to slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease, which affects more than 6 million people nationwide, have been cleared for the Food and Drug Administration’s accelerated approval process, even if patients Their use is limited until other studies confirm its efficacy.
Both drugs, aducanumab (Adhelm) and lecanumab (Lecambi), pursue the same target in the brain: amyloid plaques, which are sticky clumps of protein that disrupt cell function. But other changes in the brain have also been linked to the onset of Alzheimer’s disease, such as chronic inflammation and blood vessel problems. Researchers say developing treatments that target not just one, but multiple drivers of the complex disease is key to treating all people affected by Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.
“The success we’ve had with any chronic human disease requires a combination of drugs,” Behr says. Take heart disease for example. We have high blood pressure drugs, cholesterol-lowering drugs, and anticoagulant drugs, among others. “Each of these has significant clinical benefit, but you really need to combine them all together to prevent some patients from making transformative differences or disease progression,” Behr says.
The treatment landscape for Alzheimer’s disease as well as ALS has advanced. In 2022, the FDA approved a drug that was shown in clinical trials to help slow the progression of the disease, although larger studies are underway to better understand its effectiveness. And on April 25, regulators approved another ALS drug, this time for a small portion of the patient population with a specific, rare gene mutation.
It will take a few years for researchers to know whether Kurali’s precision drugs are effective in people with ALS and FTD. Behr says the expectation is that, if all goes well, within the next five years the company’s treatments—and DDF’s portfolio of companies—will be in the hands of other patients. Among those companies, Alector, Cerevance and Transposon Therapeutics have programs in clinical trials.
“I’m very optimistic about where we are in this time zone,” says Roet. “I think we’ve understood enough now to think we can really make an impact.”