BMS and Gladstone combat Alzheimer’s disease ‘tsunami’

Pharma funds research institute’s work on Tau dysfunction

Ashley Abraham
SAN FRANCISCO—Uniting in a three-year drug discoveryresearch initiative, Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. (BMS) and the GladstoneInstitutes hope to combat the coming onslaught of Alzheimer's disease among theever-growing elderly population. Financial details have not been disclosed, butBMS has committed to funding Gladstone's research on Tau dysfunction for thenext three years, with an opportunity to extend the partnership later.
 
 
By targeting the biological mechanism of Alzheimer's asopposed to physical symptoms, the scientists at Gladstone and BMS are fosteringthe ambitious hope of eliminating the onset of the disease. 
 
Gladstone has been investigating Alzheimer's since 1998, butrecently shifted its focus from academic research to advancing treatments.Gladstone's research focuses on Tau dysfunction. Tau is a naturally occurringprotein found primarily in the central nervous system that maintains thestability of the cells' skeleton, but when it forms abnormally, as inAlzheimer's, Tau creates residue of neurofibrillary tangles characteristic ofthe disease. Gladstone hopes that by targeting the cause of Tau dysfunction,researchers can halt the progression of Alzheimer's. 
 
 
Anne Holden, spokeswoman for the Gladstone Institutes, says,"If we can't find a root cause, then we can't find a workable, long-lastingsolution. That's what makes our research unique."
 
 
According to Holden, "during the past five years, we havebegun to focus on taking biological discoveries into clinical trials and makingsure that these discoveries reach patients." 
 
 
BMS is facilitating this endeavor through the contribution ofuntold sums of money with the hope of accelerating drug discovery and movingswiftly to clinical trials. There are currently no drugs on the market thattarget the molecular causes of Alzheimer's. The Gladstone drug discoveryprogram is the first of its kind in the BMS pipeline, and both BMS andGladstone are very optimistic that they can expedite discovery and beginhelping Alzheimer's patients. 
 
 
The incidence of Alzheimer's is expected to double in thenext 20 to 50 years, the parties point out. 
 
"When it takes an average of 12 years to go from A to Z indeveloping a drug, it is imperative to begin drug discovery now. Our scientiststalk about the coming tsunami of Alzheimer's, and there is virtually nothing inthe pipeline," says Holden, emphasizing the need to move expeditiously throughthe drug discovery process.
 
 
Dr. Leonard Mucke, founder and director of Gladstone'sInstitute of Neurological Disease, began his research in 1998 with a goal ofslowing, halting and even reversing the onset of Alzheimer's disease. Thepartnership with BMS presents a viable means to reach that goal and continuehis mission of eradicating Alzheimer's. 
 
 
"This partnership should enable us to translate ourscientific discoveries more quickly into solutions that alleviate the sufferingof Alzheimer's patients and their families around the world," said Mucke in aDec. 22 news release.
 
 
There is a possibility that Gladstone and BMS will extendtheir partnership and begin expanding their drug-discovery alliance to includeother neurodegenerative diseases areas. The role of the Tau protein has beeninvestigated in several types of dementia and Parkinson's disease.
 
 
Despite these ambitious hopes, Holden cautions that a curefor Alzheimer's is still many years away.
 
 
"We need to find a workable solution that will stifle thepending tsunami. In order to do that, we need to investigate the root cause ofdiseases in regards to Alzheimer's and Tau dysfunction," said Holden. "We arevery optimistic that this partnership will present more commercialopportunities, but right now we are still trying to understand Tau dysfunction,and the funding from BMS will help us reach that goal quickly."
 

 
BMS partners with Simcere on cardiovascular compound
 
 
PRINCETON, N.J.—Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. (BMS) and Chinesepharmaceutical group Simcere Pharmaceutical recently announced that they haveexpanded a strategic partnership the companies formed last year to include asecond collaboration in a different therapeutic area.
 
The companies agreed to co-develop BMS-795311, BMS'preclinical small-molecule inhibitor of the Cholesteryl Ester Transfer Protein(CETP). Inhibiting CETP could potentially raise HDL (good cholesterol) levelsand help prevent cardiovascular disease, BMS claims. This collaboration isexpected to accelerate the delivery of clinical Phase IIa proof of concept.
 
 
Under the terms of the new agreement, Simcere will receiveexclusive rights to develop and commercialize BMS-795311 in China, while BMSwill retain exclusive rights in all other markets. The companies will togetherdetermine the strategic development plan to explore the potential of BMS-795311to treat and prevent progression of cardiovascular disease. Simcere will runand fund initial development work. 
 
 
Financial terms were not disclosed.

Ashley Abraham

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