Okla. Medical Research Foundation Alzheimer's Drug Goes into Trials

Article excerpt

Excitement and local pride are quite apparent today at the Central Oklahoma Alzheimer's Association, and with good reason.

Mark Fried, regional director of the organization, said local residents have a reason to be proud of what goes on at the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation, especially in the way of Alzheimer's research.

"We knew it was coming; we were expecting it at any time," Fried said after OMRF announced a drug developed by the foundation's Jordan Tang will go into Phase I testing in human clinical trials. The molecule beta-secretase inhibitor CTS-21166 will be used by CoMentis Inc. in a treatment trial in Salt Lake City. The drug on Monday gained Food and Drug Administration approval for a trial.

CoMentis, based in South San Francisco, Calif., was formerly known as Athenagen Inc. It was formed through the combination of Athenagen, Osprey Pharmaceutical Co., and Zapaq, which was founded locally in 2001 by Tang and Arun Ghosh, who is now at Purdue University.

The study will involve 48 healthy subjects and will look at the safety of CTS-21166.

Tang, who has had no shortage of awards in medical research, said the trial of the latest Alzheimer's drug is another honor for him.

"This is probably the biggest thrill a scientist can have, to see that his work is on its way to treat and help people," Tang said. "Researchers live for experiences like these, because they're so few and far in between."

The history of the drug goes back to 2000, when Tang discovered beta-secretase, which is a cutting enzyme pivotal in the onset of Alzheimer's. Tang and Ghosh created an inhibitor designed to stop beta-secretase's cutting action.

"Teamwork got us where we are today," Tang added. "There's still a long road ahead, but this is the most exciting target today for intervening against Alzheimer's disease. If we could block the activity of this enzyme, we could drastically reduce the impact of Alzheimer's disease."

Fried said it's another step toward the eradication of Alzheimer's.

"We believe we'll live in a world without Alzheimer's," Fried said. "We want to put us out of business. Right now there are nine drugs in Phase III. Very few make it that far. And this drug shows incredible promise. …