World Alzheimer’s Day - September 21

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Alzheimer’s disease a top priority for AstraZeneca

Alzheimer’s disease is a debilitating disease of the brain that destroys brain cells and robs patients of memory, judgment, the ability to speak or think coherently and to recognize familiar objects and loved ones.

It is the most common form of dementia, with an estimated 25 million people worldwide suffering from the disease1. That number is climbing rapidly as people live longer.

Alzheimer’s disease is fatal. There are currently no effective treatments to prevent, cure or significantly delay the progression of the disease. It represents one of the most costly diseases in the developed world, with a heavy toll on families, and wide-ranging social and economic pressures.

Alzheimer’s is characterized by amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles in the brain. Advances in brain imaging tell us that the disease progresses silently for years before there is detectable decline in cognition.

What is AstraZeneca doing about it?

There is an urgent need for effective treatments to stop or slow the progression of the disease, and to diagnose the disease as early as possible

Christer Köhler, Central Nervous System & Pain, Innovative Medicines Unit, AstraZeneca

Discovering and developing effective new treatments for Alzheimer’s disease is a top strategic priority for the AstraZeneca and the Central Nervous System and Pain (CNS&P) Innovative Medicines Unit (iMed), led by Christer Köhler. “The CNS&Pain iMed has a diverse portfolio of both small and large molecule compounds with different modes of action, the most advanced of which are in Phase II. CNS&P iMed scientists have also developed industry-leading biomarkers to detect the disease early.”

The CNS&P iMed is focusing their efforts on the following:

Diagnose the disease early

AstraZeneca has invented highly sensitive Positron emission tomography (PET) ligands that enable us to detect amyloid in the brains of living patients. This is vital to help test the effectiveness of new treatments that enter clinical trials.

Stop or slow the disease

New medicines are currently in development aimed at stopping or slowing the progression of the disease. These include compounds that stop the production of amyloid, and compounds in preclinical testing that target tau, the protein responsible for neurofibrillary tangles.

Provide relief

We are developing new innovative medicines to alleviate the debilitating symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.

The power of collaboration

Increasingly, industry, government and academia look to the power of collaboration to find new treatments. AstraZeneca has a number of partnerships and alliances with leading institutions around the world to access the very best science and research excellence. “AstraZeneca is building a leadership position in Alzheimer’s research, and we have exciting high quality pre-clinical and clinical projects,” Kohler said. “Through these efforts, we are making real progress in finding new effective treatments for this debilitating disease.”

AstraZeneca’s collaborations include:

  • Karolinska Institutet – A unique partnership with the Karolinska has put us at the forefront of imaging techniques. PET technology allows us to assess the pharmacology and brain exposure of our drug candidates and their effectiveness.
  • University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine – An alliance focused on tau with UPenn aims at generating new Alzheimer’s disease drug candidates.
  • The Banner Alzheimer’s Institute in Pheonix, Washington University in St. Louis, the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI), and the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative (ADNI) are among other key collaborations.

Interested in learning more?

To learn more about what AstraZeneca is doing in this important area of unmet medical need, tune in to hear Samantha Budd, VP, CNS&P Translational Science, participate in a webex panel discussion on Thursday, Sept. 29, organized by Alzforum and Nature Medicine on the merits of various approaches to Alzheimer’s research. For more information or to register for the webex discussion, click here.

PET images
These PET images taken at the Karonlinska Institutet were obtained using AZD4694. On the left is an image of the damaged brain of an Alzheimer’s patient. On the right is an image of the brain of a normal elderly person. AZD4694 is a radioligand. When injected in a patient, it allows researchers to detect brain amyloid normally associated with Alzheimer’s.

1Source: Brookmeyer et al. Alzheimer’s and Dementia. 2007:3;186-191