(Bloomberg Businessweek) – For two decades, biotech companies trying to fight Alzheimer's had little success. While vaccines were often promising for certain patients, for others, e.g. Brain swelling, devastating side effects, as researchers could not reliably prevent patients' immune systems from fighting over exaggerations in a vaccine. " According to United Neuroscience Inc.
this is so far that the four-year-old startup from Dublin has neither solved nor claimed the Alzheimer's solution. Previously unpublished results from a small clinical study recently conducted by United have shown that 96 percent of patients respond positively and without serious side effects to the Alzheimer's vaccine the company calls UB-31
While scientists are not sure what causes or exacerbates Alzheimer's, there are several prime suspects: amyloids, proteins that build up the body over time and clump together in a way that piles up the brain; Tau, another family of proteins with similar problems; and inflammation in general. United's vaccine stimulates the patient's immune system to attack amyloids, which, according to some researchers, are the main cause. The job of the vaccine is to slow down the clumping of proteins and, if possible, to repair damage and restore brain function.
United's clinical trial, a Phase II study completed last year, tested the vaccine with a group of 42 patients with mild cognitive impairment and appeared to be in the early stages of Alzheimer's disease. One group of patients was in the control group and received a placebo, while two other groups received three vaccines over a year and a half and then received boosters either every three or six months.
Preventing United from making important statistical inferences has encouraged the company to advance the development of the vaccine, possibly with a larger partner, Hu said.
"They claim to bypass the immune response and it looks like they've been successful," says Frank Longo, chair of Stanford's neurology department and co-founder of Pharmatrophix Inc., which also attempts to cure Alzheimer's. "That's good." United says it has spent $ 100 million on vaccine research and development.
Hu, 35, has a resume that features a part of the Ivy League All-Star and a partially hard-working hippie. She is a Harvard-trained lawyer who practices in Cravath, Swaine & Moore, has consulted with McKinsey & Co. and then founds with her husband, Lou Reese, a 37-year-old real estate company, a bio-farm and solar power company in Hawaii Developer. They ran the farm for a few years and watched YouTube videos to find out how to slaughter chickens before expanding the family circle with their youngest business.
Hu, his mother, Chang Yi Wang, United's chief scientific officer was the inspiration for the establishment of the company. Wang has spent decades developing medical treatments and vaccines, including an affordable blood screening kit for people in developing countries, as well as a vaccine that protects animals from foot-and-mouth disease, and another that chemically castrates male pigs to make their meat palatable to keep and marketable. The vaccines have proved so effective in keeping pigs healthier that they have been used on billions of animals in China, Mexico, Brazil and Russia. "My mother-in-law has actually invented something that Harry does with her balls and makes them disappear," says Reese, who is inclined to gesticulate and throw his hair while Hu is measured and direct. "The intensity of being a son-in-law is unbelievable."
The great insight of the family was that the same technological breakthroughs that made vaccines work so well for animals could probably be transmitted to humans. Hu and Reese persuaded Wang to conduct the research, and used their business knowledge to bring their ideas from the lab into the field.
However, attacking only amyloids without attempting to control dew or inflammation remains controversial, says Stanford Longo "Any therapy involving amyloids depends on how accurate the amyloid hypothesis is and this hypothesis continues to be questioned, "he says. Also in the minus column: People taking UB-311 would ideally start treatment before they showed symptoms, and then receive a dose every six months. It's not a one-shot deal, and doctors can not predict for sure who's going to get Alzheimer's and dementia.
Right now, United says it is focused on raising capital to fund a more conclusive UB-311 study and to further refine its extension area of vaccines. The 35-member company is preparing for trials against UB-312 that target Parkinson's disease and a second Alzheimer's vaccine against tau. "You've taken thoughtful first steps with this promising technology," said Eric Reiman, a leading Alzheimer's disease researcher and consultant to United Neuroscience. "However, this is still the beginning of the beginning."
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