The commercial failure of Biogen Inc's BIIB drug Aduhelm has put a new focus on the research into the causes of Alzheimer's disease.
Aduhelm was expected as a potential blockbuster that targeted a root cause of the disease by clearing a protein known as amyloid from the brain. But research into the benefits of targeting amyloid in Alzheimer's patients has been mixed, Wall Street Journal writes.
Other potential causes and risk pathways that Alzheimer's researchers are probing include dysfunctional tau metabolism and the possibility that tau buildup can spread among cells like an infection.
There are also theories that Alzheimer's could be a form of diabetes or the result of a viral infection. Exposure to toxic substances, head trauma, and lifestyle factors like diet and exercise have also been identified as possible risks, WSJ writes.
New data has poked holes in the amyloid hypothesis. A 2020 meta-analysis of 14 trials involving amyloid-targeting drugs found the medications largely effective at clearing at least some plaque. Still, the drugs mostly had no or a small effect on cognition.
According to a survey of registered clinical trials in the U.S, more than 140 drugs are in the pipeline as potential Alzheimer's treatments, including drugs that target tau and microglia function.
Some neurologists say that even a small positive effect could benefit some patients, given the dearth of other options. No other therapy is expected on the market for at least five years, according to the Global Alzheimer's Platform Foundation.
Price Action: BIIB shares closed at $199.55 on Friday.
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