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  1. AstraZeneca bets on experimental Alzheimer’s drug
    Anglo-Swedish drug giant will take plunge with experimental Alzheimer’s drug, but will share risk with Eli Lilly

    Research into new Alzheimer’s drugs has been dogged by failure in recent years Photo: ALAMY
    By Denise Roland12:46PM BST 16 Sep 2014 1 Comment
    AstraZeneca is to pursue an experimental Alzheimer’s drug that has shown signs of promise in early testing.
    It has struck a risk and reward sharing deal with US drug giant Eli Lilly, which has been striving to develop an Alzheimer’s drug for years with little success.
    The pair will jointly develop a drug known as AZD3293, which they hope can prevent the build-up of a plaque in the brain thought to be the main cause of the debilitating neurological disease.
    Lilly has agreed to pay AstraZeneca up to $500m (£310m) in milestone payments linked to the drug’s progression through clinical testing, with the first, $50m, payment expected in the first half of 2015.
    The companies will split all future costs and, if successful, revenues, equally.
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    AstraZeneca has already completed early clinical testing in humans which has demonstrated that the drug “significantly” reduces levels of the Alzheimer’s-causing plaque in the brain and spinal fluid of both patients and healthy volunteers.
    But Alzheimer’s drug research has been plagued with failure over the last several years, which explains the Anglo-Swedish company’s eagerness to find a partner.
    “Although the prospect for the development of an effective treatment which modifies the relentless progressive neurodegenerative nature of Alzheimer’s disease is a very attractive one, such an objective has been littered with mixed results and disappointment to date, and as such it makes sense to share the risk,” said Brian White and Paul Taylor of Shore Capital.
    AZD3293 is one of several so-called BACE inhibitors being developed by pharmaceutical companies racing to land a drug that can beat back the degenerative disease.
    This class of drugs target a protein in the body associated with the development of amyloid beta known as beta secretase cleaving enzyme (BACE). They hope that by stopping this enzyme in its tracks, they can halt the progression of Alzheimer’s.
    However this class of drugs is dogged by safety concerns since BACE is also associated with other processes in the body. Eli Lilly last year scrapped a clinical trial on its BACE inhibitor LY2886721 after tests on patients returned abnormal liver results.
    Lilly has suffered a number of other setbacks in its Alzheimer’s programme. In 2012 it was forced to backtrack on a major trial for solanezumab, a drug which takes a different approach to fighting the disease, and embark on a new round of testing. Before then it scrapped another Alzheimer’s medicine, semagacestat, due to concerns it caused loss of cognitive function.
    Research by the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) released in 2012 showed that there had been 101 Alzheimer’s drug failures in the 13 previous years.
    “Alzheimer’s disease is one of the biggest challenges facing medical science today and BACE inhibitors have the potential to target one of the key drivers of disease progression,” said Mene Pangalos, executive vice president of innovative medicines and early development at AstraZeneca.
    “By combining the scientific expertise from our two organisations and by sharing the risks and cost of late stage development, we will be able to accelerate the advancement of AZD3293 and progress a promising new approach to support the treatment of Alzheimer’s patients around the world,” he added.
    REF: The Telegraph September 16, 2014 12:46PM BST

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