Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Commentary: Office Visit: An Alzheimer's Milestone

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Commentary: Office Visit: An Alzheimer's Milestone

Article excerpt

Seven years can seem like an eternity. Just ask anyone who's been in a bad marriage. Or raised a teenager.

But in the slow-motion world of drug development, seven years is like the blink of an eye. OK, maybe a long weekend. After all, it now takes an average of 15 years for a discovery to go from the test tube to the clinic.

Still, we need not resign ourselves to a world of ever-longer waits for new drugs. There are reasons for hope.

Seven years ago, Jordan Tang led a team of Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation scientists that identified and cloned the beta- secretase enzyme, which is believed to cause Alzheimer's disease, then created an inhibitor to halt the enzyme's action. Tang's work drew a substantial amount of attention, both in scientific circles (his findings were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences) and in the general media (stories ran on CNN and in the Los Angeles Times, and Dr. Tang appeared live on the CBS Early Show).

For his work, Tang earned the national Alzheimer's Association's top research prize - the Pioneer Award.

Although Dr. Tang's discoveries predate my days at OMRF, I'm certain those were heady times, marked by excitement, hope and the inevitable questions: What are the chances we can successfully translate this basic discovery into a safe, effective drug to treat Alzheimer's disease? And if we can do it, how long will it take?

On June 18, we took a significant step toward answering those questions. On that date, biopharmaceutical company CoMentis announced that it had begun human clinical trials of an Alzheimer's drug based on Dr. Tang's discoveries.

The trial will involve 48 healthy volunteers and will study the safety of the drug. CoMentis expects to begin generating human clinical data by the end of 2007 and to begin Phase II studies in Alzheimer's patients in 2008. …

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