Cognoptix Alzheimer's eye test generates robust trial results

Cognoptix is celebrating robust results from a multisite clinical trial of an eye-scanning test designed to identify early-stage Alzheimer's patients.

Diagnosing Alzheimer's from the eyeball would be unique, to say the least. But Cognoptix shares a common goal with many of its rivals: to spot Alzheimer's much earlier than current technology allows. Drug developers have largely failed to come up with treatments that can address late-stage Alzheimer's. And so they've turned their attention to early-stage treatments. That places a huge importance on coming up with a viable diagnostic that can spot initial signs of the disease at a point where those drugs have a chance of actually working.

The Acton, MA-based company said its Sapphire II test worked with an 85% sensitivity and 95% specificity in 20 patients who likely had Alzheimer's. Researchers also found that it worked on par with PET amyloid brain imaging. Cognoptix's diagnostics technology includes a laser eye-scanning device and an ophthalmic ointment, according to its website. It is designed to spot telltale beta-amyloid proteins in the lens of the eye. More research is needed to back up the initial findings, but these results are promising.

Cognoptix's trial focused on sites in Costa Mesa, CA, Miami, Phoenix, and West Palm Beach, FL.

Paul Hartung, Cognoptix's president and CEO, said in a statement that the trial "represents a giant step forward in the development of an early-stage, non-invasive diagnostic test for Alzheimer's disease."

Maybe so, but Cognoptix is also pursuing a very different approach compared with other companies and researchers. A more common path is a focus on imaging agents that, through the use of PET scanning, could help spot beta amyloid or tau proteins in the brain. Right now, an autopsy provides the only definitive Alzheimer's diagnosis.

Cognoptix's core technology came out of research at Brigham & Women's Hospital in Boston. Principal investors include Inventages Venture Capital and Launchpad Venture Group.

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