RTP firm seeks funds to study possible Alzheimer’s treatment

Apr. 24, 2014 @ 05:53 PM

A Research Triangle Park drug development startup company is looking to raise money to further studies of a drug candidate that was originally targeted as a treatment for diabetes as a treatment for Alzheimer’s disease.
T3D Therapeutics CEO Dr. John Didsbury said the start-up company licensed a diabetes drug candidate from Dara BioSciences, a Raleigh-based pharmaceutical company focused on cancer supportive care products and on developing cancer treatments. Didsbury was formerly chief scientific officer at Dara.
“It’s been a personal mission of mine to identify and develop a breakthrough medicine for any disease, and this particular drug is the culmination of the search,” Didsbury said of the drug candidate, which he said he believes could have multiple mechanisms for treating Alzheimer’s. “It’s a tough haul, but one that just requires perseverance and tenacity.”
Didsbury said there are “striking similarities” between diabetes and Alzheimer’s. The company’s drug candidate would work in multiple ways by regulating enzymes involved in Alzheimer’s defects, he said.
“It acts in a myriad of ways, and like I said, it regulates the levels of certain key enzymes that are involved in the pathophysiology of the disease,” he said.
Dr. James Burke, a professor of neurology and medicine at Duke Medicine, said there is some evidence that people taking some types of diabetes medicines might have a slightly lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease than other people who don’t, but he also said there’s “no kind of home run” or “completely convincing story.”
Burke said studies have been suggestive, but it’s difficult to do the controlled experiments necessary to prove the hypothesis. There have been failed trials using different approaches in the past, but new approaches and new drugs are needed, he said.
“There are some scientific underpinnings that would suggest that targeting the diabetes pathways would be relevant to Alzheimer’s disease,” he said.
Burke said Duke is one of the sites for a multinational trial that’s expected to enroll 5,000 cognitively normal people at risk for developing Alzheimer’s to see if a diabetes drug delays mild cognitive impairment from the disease.
Burke said the study will follow two groups of participants -- some in a placebo group, and another group that will be taking a diabetes drug called pioglitazone – for five years. They’re enrolling patients between the ages of 63 and 85 based on their risk of developing Alzheimer’s, he said. They’re determining whether a patient is at higher risk for developing the disease by looking at several genes.
The trial was launched through a partnership between the Japanese company Takeda Pharmaceutical Co. Limited and Zinfandel Pharmaceuticals Inc.
Through T3D Therapeutics, Didsbury is looking to raise money to try to carry the diabetes drug that his company licensed from Dara into Phase 2 trials. The drug has already gone through Phase 1 trials, he said, as a diabetes candidate.
The company raised $660,997 in March from angel investors, bringing their total investments to date to $1.1 million, he said. That’s on top of a company inception loan from the N.C. Biotechnology Center. Right now, he said the company has two employees and is operating virtually.
Didsbury said the additional funding will allow the company to do some pre-clinical work, but they’re still evaluating their financial strategy to figure out a way to pay for Phase 2 trials. He said company has applied for grants from the National Institutes of Health and other organizations.