Small biotech in the spotlight after drug boosts memory in Alzheimer's study

Finland's Orion Pharma has found itself caught in the bright spotlight of public attention that focuses on any indication of success with an experimental Alzheimer's therapy.

In a Phase IIa study of ORM-12741, a therapy that targets mechanisms in the brain that handle stressful situations, investigators say the treatment group demonstrated a slight boost in memory as a control arm of moderate-stage patients experienced a rapid decline. Orion said that 100 people with moderate Alzheimer's disease "were randomly given either 30 to 60 milligrams or 100 to 200 milligrams of ORM-12741 or matching placebo pill twice a day for three months as add-on therapy to a cholinesterase drug. Additionally, use of memantine was allowed" and patients may have been taking other drugs as well. 

Orion says the drug is the first to target a specific subtype of adrenergic receptors (alpha-2C) in the brain, which are engaged during the body's "fight or flight" response to stressful situations. After three months of therapy, investigators say the placebo group's memory scores plunged 33%, compared to a 4% uptick for the drug arm.

"Currently, there are still only a handful of Alzheimer's drugs on the market and they have only moderate effects on the symptoms of the disease," said study author Dr. Juha Rouru of Orion Pharma. "Anytime you have a drug that targets a new pathway in the brain and shows effectiveness in clinical trials, it is exciting." 

Investigators have been at the same juncture before, of course, only to find failure in late-stage testing of much larger patient populations. But with millions of patients suffering from the disease, you can add one more treatment to the roster of drugs in the Alzheimer's spotlight.

- here's the release

Suggested Articles

Fifteen of the 22 patients in a gene therapy trial no longer needed transfusions, while the remainder needed fewer transfusions.

Argos Therapeutics is ending its kidney cancer trial and mulling options, including a merger or sale, to stay alive.

CNS Pharma says berubicin is the first anthracycline drug to cross the blood-brain barrier and could transform treatment of the highly invasive brain tumor.