For the past eight months, my business partner Justin Klee ’13 and I have been working on developing a therapy for Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s Disease is a terrible affliction that currently affects over 5 million patients in the United States alone, making it the sixth leading cause of death and the third amongst people 65 and older. The number of patients is expected to grow at an increasingly faster rate over the next forty years as the population ages. On an economic scale, Alzheimer's costs the US healthcare system an estimated 216 billion dollars (Alzheimer’s Association, 2013). Devastatingly, there is no cure and there have been more than 100 consecutive drug failures for Alzheimer’s disease over the past ten years. The few current treatments extend life by about 6 months and do nothing to stop the progression of pathologies. Yet drug companies are hesitant to continue to pursue this massive unmet need because of the past failures.
Alzheimer’s disease has typically been considered as a disease caused by two proteins: amyloid beta, and tau. These proteins are known to disrupt neuronal signaling in the brain. Current therapies have repeatedly targeted this pathology and despite success in affecting levels of these two proteins no drug has seen particular success. After an extensive literature search, Justin and I became convinced that Alzheimer’s disease was more metabolic in nature and that these dysregulated proteins may be downstream of an earlier pathology. Using this mechanism we scanned the mechanisms of action of known drugs and found a combination of two existing non-neurological drugs that might treat the disease. Hopefully this new approach will succeed where other technologies have failed.
Next, Justin and I sought out opinion leaders in the field to help us to validate our science. We have since built a strong team of both business and scientific advisors who both provide verification of our science and give us advice as we move forward. Needing intellectual property advice, we have also signed on Fish and Richardson as our retained patent law firm. We have also filed two provisional patents which have been reviewed by Fish and Richardson to aid in protecting our idea. They are conducting future work to produce full U.S. utility patents.
We are currently testing our compounds in two studies. These studies are two separate in vitro studies aiming to provide further validation to our idea. With successful studies we will aim to move into in vivo studies and begin compiling an IND package which will allow us to conduct future tests in humans.
So far, Justin and I have provided for the company out of pocket, incurring >$10K in costs to keep the venture afloat. In the immediate future we will have to pay lawyers fees as well as fees for one of the studies we are conducting. The $500 grant we are receiving from BVLF should help us progress and learn more as we continue the project. Hopefully with this grant we will be one step closer to providing a therapy for this debilitating disease.
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