Worldwide, around 50 million people have dementia, and there are nearly 10 million new cases every year, reaching about 150m cases in 2050 (WHO 2020). Dementia is a progressive disease, leading to a gradual loss of brain functions and to death within 10 years. Alzheimer's disease (AD) is the most common form of dementia and contribute to 60–70% of cases. Thus, Alzheimer's disease is one of the largest unmet healthcare challenges of our time.
The socioeconomic costs of Alzheimer´s disease are enormous
More than 1% of the annual global value creation is spent on nursing our old and demented. According to recent estimates by Alzheimer's disease International, more than 80% of all individuals living in nursing homes have dementia, and the number of demented persons requiring nursing will triple by 2050. There is a huge unmet medical need for novel interventions to treat Alzheimer's disease and dementia.
Our understanding of the disease biology is rapidly evolving
Two classical hallmarks of pathology are found in the brains of patients with AD: the amyloid plaques and tangles of tau protein. Despite intense efforts to discover and develop novel drugs for AD targeting the amyloid plaque pathway, no cure has been found for dementia and the only treatments available until recently gives symptomatic relief. This may be due to the large heterogeneity of dementias, including AD. The registration in the US by Biogen for the antibody drug Aduhelm (aducanumab) in June 2021 has launched a renewed interest in the development of therapeutics for dementia and is a breakthrough for the industry. The drug Aduhelm has shown a robust effect on the important biomarker amyloid-β plaques, but only inconsistent effects on the dementia itself, i.e., the clinical problems with worsening cognition. Thus, there is still a large unmet medical need for new therapies that may slow down or halt the progression of dementia, especially those potentially complementary to the amyloid-β plaque target.
Our current understanding of the disease biology has evolved rapidly in the past decades; we now see the role of tau protein, not as secondary to the plaques, but entering centre-stage as an important and necessary pathological factor alongside the amyloid plaques.
Pharmasum is developing novel drugs to treat dementia, targeting pathological tau protein.