Chinese firm seeks European trials for Alzheimer’s drug

A newly approved Chinese drug for Alzheimer’s will start clinical trials in Europe and the US next year as the country’s first novel therapy for the incurable disease seeks global legitimacy.

Chinese firm seeks European trials for Alzheimer’s drug

A newly approved Chinese drug for Alzheimer’s will start clinical trials in Europe and the US next year as the country’s first novel therapy for the incurable disease seeks global legitimacy.

Shanghai Green Valley Pharmaceutical plans to recruit around 2,046 patients with mild-to-moderate Alzheimer’s for trials at 200 sites across Europe, North America, and Asia Pacific for 18 months, according to the company’s vice president, Li Jinhe.

The drug, Oligomannate, was granted conditional approval in China last month. It comes in a 150mg capsule and went on sale in the country yesterday.

Patients need to take three capsules twice a day, according to the drug’s package insert. A week’s treatment costs 895 yuan (€114).

Green Valley announced the plans in a press conference in Beijing, nearly two months after making global headlines for saying it got approval from China’s regulator for the first new Alzheimer’s drug in 17 years.

The neurodegenerative disease has baffled global drugmakers, who have invested billions of dollars into more than 190 experimental drugs with little to show for it.

The Shanghai-based firm, unknown outside of China, is facing scepticism that it could have so quickly achieved something that has eluded western pharmaceutical giants for decades.

“It’s totally understandable for our drug to be questioned,” said Green Valley chairman Lyu Songtao. “We are confident because we see clear benefits from patients in the clinical trials.”

The conditional approval requires the drugmaker to conduct further studies on how the drug works and its long-term safety and efficacy.

The company also said it plans to invest $3bn (€2.7bn) in the next 10 years for such investigations — including on global trials — to understand its working mechanism and expand its use in treating diseases such as Parkinson’s and vascular dementia.

In its mission to get its vast patient pool access to top-quality health care, China’s drug regulator has been granting rapid approval to novel, experimental treatments, sometimes faster than its counterparts in the US and Europe. Beijing is also nurturing its biotech sector in China’s quest to become a global leader in medical and scientific research.

Alzheimer’s affects 10m people in China and 5.8m in the US. Researchers estimate there are 50m people worldwide living with dementia, with Alzheimer’s the cause in as many as 70% of cases — implying a big addressable market for Green Valley if it manages to take the drug global. Drugs that halt thedebilitating disease could be a market worth as much as $30bn in the US alone, according to an estimate by analysts at Sanford C Bernstein.

Global pharmaceutical giants including AstraZeneca, Eli Lilly, and Roche Holding have invested billions of dollars over the years but failed to develop therapies for this disease.

In October, Biogen said it plans to resume abandoned studies of its experimental therapy after new data analysis showed promising results.

Green Valley plans to file an application for clinical trials with the US Food and Drug Administration in February 2020. It also wants to secure the Fast Track designation, said Mr Li.

This tag helps expedite regulatory review of drugs that treat serious conditions or fill an unmet medical need. The company is also exploring partnerships with global drugmakers to speed up clinical trials and help launch the product outside China, he said.

The Green Valley therapy works differently from the approach taken on Alzheimer’s by western drug developers. Oligomannate — the name refers to a type of sugar extracted from brown seaweed — is unusual in that it does not target beta-amyloid, a protein that forms clumps of plaque in the brain, clogging it in patients with Alzheimer’s.

After years of failure, a backlash has grown over drugmakers’ fixation on beta-amyloid as the key to a cure, but major pharmaceutical companies have yet to seriously explore an alternative. Oligomannate seeks to readjust microbiome in the gut, which ultimately leads to reduced neuron inflammation in the brain and slows the progression of the disease, according to the company.

- Bloomberg

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