Pfizer and AbbVie are pumping $10 million into Aquinnah Pharmaceuticals‘ effort to develop a revolutionary approach to treating neurodegenerative diseases — one that could arrest, or even reverse, the progression of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), Alzheimer’s and other conditions.
Takeda Pharmaceuticals invested $5 million in Aquinnah’s program in December 2015.
“We are excited to have the support of three world-class pharmaceutical companies to expand our drug development efforts from ALS into new RNA binding proteins known to modulate Tau, one of the hallmark pathological proteins involved in Alzheimer’s disease,” Dr. Glenn Larsen, Aquinnah’s president and chief executive officer, said in a press release.
The scientific community has spent years studying neurofibrillary tangles and b-amyloid plaque to find a way to treat neurodegenerative diseases. The tangles — twisted masses of Tau protein fibers in nerve cells — are found in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s. Amyloid plaque is a sticky buildup of amyloid protein that accumulates outside nerve cells, or neurons. When the protein divides improperly, it creates a form called beta amyloid, or b-amyloid, that kills brain neurons.
Dr. Ben Wolozin, Aquinnah’s chief scientific officer, believes RNA binding proteins’ role in modulating Tau could be the key to a better understanding of Alzheimer’s. “We discovered that RNA binding proteins play a critical role in brain deterioration, cognitive loss and life expectancy reduction in mouse models of Alzheimer’s disease,” Wolozin said. Targeting the proteins could lead to Alzheimer’s therapies, he said.
“There continues to be a substantial need to combat neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s disease and ALS,” said Dr. Scott Brun, head of AbbVie’s corporate strategic venture capital arm, AbbVie Ventures. “Aquinnah’s research approach, developed by world-class scientific and drug development leaders, could offer valuable advances to treat these debilitating, progressive brain diseases and complements AbbVie’s ongoing neuroscience research efforts.”
“We believe Aquinnah’s novel approach to ALS and Alzheimer’s disease is one of the most promising developments in neurodegenerative disease today,” said Dr. Morris Birnbaum, a senior vice president at Pfizer. “We see the potential for multiple approaches to these diseases based on the company’s work. Neurodegenerative disease remains one of Pfizer’s top priorities, and we are committed to supporting Aquinnah’s research.”
Aquinnah Pharmaceuticals was named the Most Innovative Neurodegenerative Research Company in 2016 by New Economy Magazine. To learn more, visit: