- Martin Tolar, the CEO of Alzheon, is laying down the gauntlet, claiming that his company is way ahead of Biogen in developing an effective Alzheimer's disease (AD) drug.
- Biogen made headlines in March when its AD drug candidate BIIB037 (adacanumab) showed the ability to not only decrease amyloid-beta levels in clinical trial subjects, but also to decrease the rate of cognitive decline. Biogen's market cap increased by $10 billion based on this news.
- Tolar previously ran Pfizer's Alzheimer's programs.
The fact that there are two companies with drugs that potentially treat the cognitive decline associated with AD is newsworthy on many levels. First, there has not been a new AD drug introduced since the 2003 (that is when Namenda was introduced by Forest Labs, note that Namenda is now owned by Actavis). Moreover, more than 100 investigational drugs have failed at some point during development in the last 15 years, as the costs associated with managing the lives of people with AD have exploded— direct costs were roughly $214 billion in 2014, and are expected to reach $1.2 trillion by 2050.
Tolar is excited about his the prospects for Alzheon's AD drug—a pill that prevents the build-up of amyloid-beta protein—because of promising efficacy results in early-stage studies of 2,000 patients. That is a substantially larger dataset than Biogen's. In addition, Alzheon's AD drug is targeted for patients with an APoE4 gene mutation, which affects more than 50% of patients with AD. Alzheon is prepping for larger, phase II and phase III trials. Tolar optimistically predicted that if all goes well, its AD drug could be launched by 2018.
In this case, the more competition the better. In fact, if both Alzheon and Biogen prevail in their drug-development efforts, everyone wins.