Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Boston’s ‘Neuro’ Network will Ignite Innovation

We asked Martin Tolar, the Founder, President & CEO of Alzheon, Inc. what he thought Boston biotech would look like in 2050 earlier this week, and his response prompted us to invite him to contribute a blog post. What follows is Dr. Tolar's look into the future of biotech, specifically around neurodegenerative disorders.

By Martin Tolar, MD, PhD, Founder, President and CEO Alzheon, Inc.

Developing new medicines for neurodegenerative disorders is one of the most challenging areas of drug development that is pushing the new frontiers, and at last with the prospect of real breakthroughs on the horizon. Boston is one of the most active areas for research and drug development in neuroscience and neurodegenerative diseases. The Boston ecosystem that fuels biotechnology innovation includes a brain trust of experts in science, medicine and biotechnology collaborating for new ways to treat neurodegenerative disorders.

By the year 2050, the outlook is promising for new life-changing medicines to emerge from the Boston hub for these devastating diseases of the brain that represents some of the greatest challenges in human health, currently with very limited treatment options for patients: Alzheimer’s, ALS, Huntington’s, Parkinson’s diseases. We are on the cusp of bringing new medicines to millions of patients in need.

Let me predict some of the progress that will be made in Alzheimer’s disease, which is the key therapeutic focus for my company, Alzheon.

Biotech companies have already emerged in the land of the ‘giants’ of the big pharmaceutical companies who have traditionally carried out Alzheimer’s drug development, and companies in this region are poised to maintain their position through 2050 for being on the leading-edge of advancing some of the first medicines to Alzheimer’s patients.

In 2050 and beyond, Boston-area biotechs are poised to maintain their position on the leading-edge of bringing some of the first approved medicines to Alzheimer’s patients. Already Boston-area biotechs are among the companies with the most advanced Alzheimer’s drug candidates in Phase 3 clinical trials, and in particular Biogen has led local drug development in this therapeutic area. Biotech companies, including those from Boston, have emerged and earned their place in the ‘land of the giants’ of the big pharmaceutical companies who have traditionally carried out Alzheimer’s drug development.

Alzheimer’s research from the Boston area will span the full spectrum of different treatment approaches for Alzheimer’s disease. New drug mechanisms for targeting Alzheimer’s will continue to emerge, and Boston researchers and biotech companies will continue to spur new frontiers for Alzheimer’s mechanisms. Amyloid-targeting is the most advanced drug development approach for Alzheimer’s, with more recent drug candidates following new science related to the role of tau protein in Alzheimer’s. Boston biotech companies will further advance the most well-established biology and mature learnings in the field of Alzheimer’s which offer the most near-term treatment possibilities. Drug candidates that target beta-amyloid, a pathway that is well-known to play a role in Alzheimer’s, are in Phase 3 trials with data on the near-term horizon, and two Boston-area companies, Biogen and Alzheon, have advanced drug candidates that target beta-amyloid.

Advances in Alzheimer’s drug development will be supported by new understanding of the genetics and sub-populations of Alzheimer’s disease, areas in which Boston’s world-class science and medical ecosystems will continue to make contributions. New insights about genetic markers for Alzheimer’s disease and deeper understanding about the underlying biology and disease progression are guiding better drug development and smarter targeting of patient sub-populations. Again, the Boston ecosystem is ideally suited to bring together scientific researchers, medical thought leaders, and biotech companies to rapidly translate new insights into drug development programs. For example, when clinical research showed that Alzheimer’s patients with the APOE4 gene have a higher risk and burden of disease, drug developers began to explore if patients in APOE4 sub-populations might be higher responders to certain drug candidates. Alzheon is proud to be a pioneer in applying a precision medicine approach to Alzheimer’s, by focusing our drug development on the APOE4 genetically-defined patients with Alzheimer’s.

At this moment in 2016, there is tremendous momentum in the field of Alzheimer’s disease. The ‘neuro network’ of industry, medicine and academia – in Boston and throughout the world – is emerging with greater knowledge about Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative disorders, which is driving better informed drug development. Our collective goal is to bring truly effective treatments to market that will change the lives of Alzheimer’s patients, as well as curbing the skyrocketing cost to society estimated at $1 trillion annually in the U.S. by the year 2050. As we look to 2050 and beyond, the future looks brighter than ever for achieving this goal and preventing devastation brought to patients and the impact on society.

You can see Martin Tolar at Biotech Week Boston's Partnerships in Clinical Trials event this October. Martin will present the opening keynote for day 2 of the event entitled "Innovation in Clinical R&D: Finding a Cure for Alzheimer’s". In this opening keynote Alzheon’s CEO will share the company’s drug development journey in neuroscience, as they innovate towards novel therapeutic solutions for Alzheimer’s Disease. Join us for insights on how innovation at Alzheon has been key in developing a promising pipeline of therapeutics in the clinic.

Martin Tolar

Please follow us on Twitter @BiotechWkBoston for more Boston biotech news and information, and don’t forget to check in every week for our Biotech Week Boston blog series. Biotech Week Boston is happening this October 4-7; you can learn more by clicking the link below.

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