Toronto Biotech Fights Alzheimer's & Parkinson's at Their Roots
Featured Biotech ProMIS Neurosciences is researching a new drug candidate that targets the root causes of neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's.
The numbers paint a grim picture. More than half a million Canadians are living with Alzheimer's — the most common neurodegenerative disease — costing $10.4 billion annually for care. Within 15 years, estimates show those affected will increase to nearly one million, worsening an already serious public health crisis.
Unfortunately, there are no drug therapies currently available to treat the root cause of Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, or other neurodegenerative diseases. Efforts to date have been unsuccessful despite the significant time and resources devoted. Failure has been due, in part, to pursuing solutions for the wrong problem.
A ground-breaking discovery
"For decades, researchers believed Alzheimer's was caused by plaque in the brain," explains Dr. Elliot Goldstein, President and CEO at ProMIS Neurosciences, a Toronto-based biotech focused on developing medicines that precisely target a root cause of neurodegenerative diseases. "We've learned in the last 20 years that the common denominator among neurodegenerative diseases is the toxic forms of normal proteins in the brain, called toxic oligomers. The body eliminates them naturally most of the time but when it doesn't, they spread throughout the brain, and kill neurons."
“We want to make a difference in the lives of patients, caregivers and the health care system.”
– Dr. Elliot Goldstein, President & CEO of ProMIS Neurosciences
Now that researchers are aiming at the right target to attack these diseases, they're discovering that traditional methods to develop antibodies, a popular class of drugs that mimic the body's own natural response to disease, don't work for the toxic oligomer. To address this challenge, ProMIS has developed a new way to make antibodies that can selectively target the toxic forms of these proteins and only the toxic forms. "Our unique platform blends biology, physics, and supercomputing to create medicines with sniper-like precision on toxic oligomers," Dr. Goldstein notes. "There's real hope for treatment that can stop these terrible diseases."
Hope on the horizon
Initial results from the first human trial of PMN310, ProMIS' antibody drug candidate for Alzheimer's disease, may be available by the end of 2020. If all goes well and government approvals can be fast-tracked, based on the tracking of valid biomarkers that can predict how well a patient will respond, the potential treatment could be available in five to seven years. Potential medicines for Parkinson's disease and ALS are also on the company's roadmap.
"We want to make a difference in the lives of patients, caregivers and the health care system," says Dr. Goldstein. "Our goal as a company is to deliver on our promise and help put these devastating neurodegenerative diseases in the trash bin of history where they belong."