January 18, 2019
For the past 20 years, biotech companies have been striving to tackle Alzheimer’s—with little success. However now, Bloomberg reports, a four-year old Dublin-based biotech team—comprising leaders in neurology, vaccines, drug development, and disruptive ideas—believes it may be on to something.
To be clear, the news outlet says, United Neuroscience hasn’t solved Alzheimer’s yet, nor has it claimed to. But previously unreported results from a small, recent United clinical trial find that 96% of patients responded, without serious side effects, to the Alzheimer’s vaccine the company calls UB-311. The researchers describe the drug as “a novel synthetic peptide vaccine targeting beta amyloid [the main component of the amyloid plaques found in the brains of Alzheimer patients] in the treatment of Alzheimer’s.”
“The positive results show that we can safely raise and maintain [anti-beta amyloid] antibody titers in a predictable and sustained manner,” said Peter Powchik, EVP of Research and Development at UNS, in a company release.
“High response rates, reproducibility of response, and generation of antibodies directed to relevant toxic protein species are key elements of an effective therapeutic vaccine for neurodegenerative conditions. The UNS platform is proving that it can deliver on these requirements,” Powchik claimed.
Indeed, Bloomberg explains, United’s vaccine stimulates the patient’s own immune system to attack amyloid, which some researchers believe to be the leading cause. The vaccine’s job is to slow the proteins’ clumping and, if possible, reverse some damage and restore brain function.
United’s clinical trial, a Phase II study completed last year, tested the vaccine with a group of 42 patients who had mild cognitive impairment and appeared to be in the early stages of Alzheimer’s.
One set of patients was in the control group and received a placebo; while two other groups received three shots of the vaccine and then boosters either every three or six months over the course of a 18 months.
Although the small number of patients prevents United from drawing any major statistical conclusions, the company has been encouraged enough to move ahead with development of the vaccine, possibly with a larger partner, according to CEO Mel Mei Hu.
For now, United says it’s focused on raising capital to fund a more conclusive UB-311 study and to keep refining its widening range of vaccines. The 35-person company is gearing up to start trials of UB-312, aimed at Parkinson’s disease, and a second Alzheimer’s vaccine meant to combat tau [a protein that causes tangles in the brain].
“They have taken thoughtful initial steps with this very promising technology,” Eric Reiman, a leading Alzheimer’s researcher and an adviser to United Neuroscience, told Bloomberg. “But this is still the beginning of the beginning.”
Research contact: @UNSTechBio