TAIPEI, 22nd April 2013 – Alzheimer’s Disease could soon escalate to even higher proportions than previously estimated in Asia if its current course is not averted, according to Professor Claude Wischik, Chairman of TauRx Therapeutics Ltd. Speaking at the 2013 Alzheimer’s Disease International [ADI 2013] conference on Friday, Professor Wischik presented data underscoring the need for tau-based clinical research in China for Alzheimer’s prevention, and the economic and societal consequences of failing to do so. TauRx also affirmed its support of the organization’s call for ‘global change in dementia’ by continuing its Phase 3 pursuit of an effective Alzheimer’s drug.
Using demographic data from the World Health Organization, together with proven cognitive staging to assess the severity of a person’s Alzheimer’s based on the presence of tau tangles [tau pathology] in the brain, Professor Wischik estimated that up to 155 million people in Asia will advance to moderate to severe Alzheimer’s by 2050. Of major concern is the possibility that as many as one billion people will
be at risk for earlier stages of Alzheimer’s disease.
The statistics underscore the need for a medicine that can halt the progression of Alzheimer’s disease, by targeting the tau tangles in the brain. Current treatments address the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. TauRx is the only company conducting a large Phase 3 clinical trial for a tau aggregation inhibitor aimed at halting the progression of Alzheimer’s. This study culminates over 30 years of research, and in the wake of many failed beta amyloid agents targeting plaques in the brain, TauRx’s Phase 3 study is of significant importance to the Alzheimer’s community. A recent decision of another global pharmaceutical company to end its Alzheimer’s research programme highlights the challenge
and duration required for the development of new medicines.
In demonstrating the statistics regarding the growth of Alzheimer’s, Professor Wischik used Braak Staging, the method used to classify patients’ cognitive clinical decline. The six stages correlate to the aggregation of tau-tangles in the brain: the greater the tangles, the greater the decline – and the higher the Braak Stage number. Tau tangles [tau pathology] are one of the hallmarks of dementia. They were
first described a century ago by Dr Alois Alzheimer. In Alzheimer’s disease, tau protein begins to self-aggregate in a process which leads to formation of abnormal fibres inside nerve cells that eventually kill them. The formation of tangles spreads throughout the brain, as affected nerve cells spread the process to nearby normal nerve cells.
“Using data from the World Health Organization and the Braak data, I’ve calculated that the percentage of people with advanced levels of cognitive impairment will increase exponentially over the coming years,” Professor Wischik said to conference delegates. He warned that current projections may have under-estimated the number of cases of Alzheimer’s in Asia, forecasting that up to 150 million Asians
will be at Braak Stage 4 by 2050 – a sufficiently advanced stage of tau pathology to be visible as cognitive decline. Such projection is a 341% increase over today’s published figures. Current reports show an increase of 123%. As a result, Wischik suggests that the impact on the Asian family-oriented care structure will be affected, since there will be fewer people to care for those with significant stages of impairment.
“Looking at the population as a whole, tau aggregation begins in the memory critical brain regions at about the age of 40, and the prevalence of Braak stage 1 cases peaks at about age 55. It takes another 20 years to reach Braak stages 3 and beyond. This gives ample time to intervene in the process, especially with the advent of medicines aimed at slowing or halting the progression of Alzheimer’s,” he said.
According to Professor Wischik, recent projections related to costs of Alzheimer’s Disease care indicate a doubling by 2040, making clinical research into new treatments for dementia even more essential than ever before. However, despite this potentially dire outlook, he considers room for a more hopeful scenario given recent insights into tau pathology – which is the key to finding ways of stopping Alzheimer’s disease progression.
Stopping tau pathology [spread of tangles] in its tracks is precisely what TauRx intends to ultimately achieve, having recently launched Phase 3 clinical trials of LMTX™, its compound that targets the formation of tau aggregates in the brain. While there is still much that isn’t fully understood about the underlying processes that trigger the aggregation of tau tangles, Professor Wischik remains certain that targeting tau will enable us to get to the heart of the Alzheimer’s problem.
“What’s really needed is a cost-effective, widely available ‘tau-buster’ – to fend off the accumulative effects of this devastating disease,” he said. “A new treatment targeting tau pathology is tomorrow’s hope for a brighter future, and our Phase 3 studies are bringing us closer to that goal. Given current projections of the impact of Alzheimer’s in China over the coming decades, there is a strong rationale for the need to conduct similar studies in China.”
Patients and caregivers can find further information at http://www.alzdirectory.org.
TauRx Therapeutics Ltd was established in Singapore in 2002 with the aim of developing new treatments and diagnostics for a range of neurodegenerative diseases. The company’s tau aggregation inhibitor, LMTX™, is currently in global Phase 3 clinical trials for Alzheimer’s and Frontotemporal Dementia (FTD). LMTX™ targets aggregates of abnormal fibres of tau protein that form inside nerve cells in the brain, giving rise to tangles. TauRx’s primary research facilities are in Aberdeen, Scotland.
The 28th Conference of Alzheimer’s Disease International [ADI 2013], held 18-20 April in Taipei, Taiwan, brought together more than 1,000 medical professionals, dementia experts, family carers, people living with dementia and national Alzheimer associations from more than 60 countries. This year’s conference theme was aptly called ‘Dementia: Action for Global Change.’
Liz Moench / Elizabeth Puller +1 484 674 6800 / +44 (0)208 834 1447
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