Alector Goes After Alzheimer’s, With Cash from Polaris & OrbiMed
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for a few years about starting a company together someday, and Alector is the result of those talks, Rosenthal says. Essentially, Rosenthal and his team of a half-dozen scientists in San Francisco are working on their biological ideas, and their work is enabled in large part by the antibody discovery platform at Adimab. The way it’s set up, Alector is paying for access to the Adimab discovery platform to get antibodies to work on, like any other pharma company would turn to Adimab, Rosenthal says. Adimab doesn’t have an equity ownership position in Alector, but Gerngross and Adimab co-founder Errik Anderson do have personal equity stakes, and they will be helping Alector with business development, financing, and other operational tasks, Rosenthal says. “They are very talented people,” he says.
The grand ambition at Alector is to come up with a drug for Alzheimer’s that can be aimed at patients with a specific genetic predisposition. That means it would be able to find patients before symptoms get out of hand, and recruit these likely responders based on a strong scientific rationale—something nobody has been able to do successfully in Alzheimer’s. The hope is that the deeper understanding of genetics will enable Alector to sidestep some of the issues that have troubled Alzheimer’s studies in the past. Many trials have been dogged by the heterogeneity of the clinical trial population, which sometimes doesn’t even include Alzheimer’s patients, but also ropes in other forms of dementia.
One other major bugaboo for Alzheimer’s trials is that patients get treated when too much damage has already been done. “In general, it’s better to treat early,” Rosenthal says. “At a certain point, the pathology is irreversible.” It will be years before Alector will find out if its ideas are on the right track, but it could be big news for millions of people in this group.