I have to admit, when I first heard about Anavex Life Sciences Corp., I thought, “Here we go… just another pharma fail.”
But after a few minutes of research, it looks like this one might be different.
Like hundreds of other bio firms, Anavex is taking on the “big bad wolf” that is Alzheimer’s.
This one hits home for me, everyone.
My family, like 5 million other families in the United States (that number is expected to triple by 2050), personally struggled through the frustrating and stressful impact of degenerative mental illness.
There aren’t many things I can think of that are more heartbreaking than watching a loved one’s mind deteriorate before your eyes, especially when their physical health is sound in every other way.
That’s why it’s always bittersweet when we hear about a potential drug that could cure or even slow the progression of Alzheimer’s.
On one hand, there is the optimism that a cure could be in the near future.
On the other hand, researchers have been searching for the cure for decades with very little marked success.
The failure rate of Alzheimer’s drugs in the clinical trial phase is 99%.
Between 2000 and 2010, we saw declines in the number of deaths from every major disease — breast cancer, heart disease, stroke, and even HIV.
During that same time period, deaths from Alzheimer’s increased almost 70%.
In fact, among the top 10 causes of death in America, Alzheimer’s is the only one without any prevention strategy or way to slow progression.
There has never been a survivor of Alzheimer’s — if you don’t die from it, you die with it.
I’ll admit it, I feel let down.
Conventional trials have been based on addressing the buildup of amyloid beta (A-beta) plaque and the attempt to reduce or remove that buildup.
Unfortunately, even big biotech firms like Pfizer and Eli Lilly have all seen defeat.
Their repeated failures have led researchers to believe that merely removing A-beta plaque might be too simplistic to really be effective.
This is where Anavex stands out. This publicly traded biopharmaceutical company has the potential to disrupt one of the largest but most underserved markets in the medical field.
Anavex specializes in developing drug candidates to treat Alzheimer’s disease, central nervous system disorders, pain, and various cancers.
The buildup of A-beta plaque in the brain results from a misfolded protein and is the most likely cause of Alzheimer’s disease.
Instead of chipping away at a plaque buildup that is already present (the strategy that most other biotech firms are attempting), Anavex has developed a technique to essentially unfold and then correctly re-fold that protein.
Anavex’s trials are some of the only ones we’ve seen that have shown potential to stop and possibly reverse Alzheimer’s disease.
Approximately this time last year, Anavex announced encouraging results from the first phase of clinical trials for its drug candidate, ANAVEX 2-73.
Phase 1 demonstrated that the treatment is safe and the observed side effects are among the usual suspects for symptoms associated with drugs that target central nervous system conditions.
ANAVEX 2-73 began the second phase of study in December of 2014, partially with grant funding from the Michael J. Fox Foundation (ANAVEX 2-73 may also be effective for Parkinson’s Disease, epilepsy, etc.).
The trial is currently in Phase 2a, and preliminary data was already reported in Q3 of this year.
Top-line data will be reported at the Clinical Trials on Alzheimer’s Disease (CTAD) Conference on November 5-7, and there’s a strong sense of optimism surrounding the results.
The company began trading on the NASDAQ on the 28th of October and rang Friday’s closing bell in honor of the occasion.
“This is a significant milestone for Anavex. As we become a NASDAQ-listed company, our team is now able to communicate our progress with a broader audience, raise the visibility of Anavex’s capabilities, as well as generate more value for our shareholders. The NASDAQ uplisting also comes at an important time in our growth as full PART A and preliminary PART B Phase 2a clinical trial data will be presented at the CTAD conference on November 7, 2015.”
— Christopher U. Missling, Anavex CEO
Alzheimer’s is currently the largest and fastest-growing market in the field of medicine.
With an aging world population, the opportunities in this market are expected to increase even further.
One research firm, GlobalData, expects that the global market for Alzheimer’s disease (AD) treatment will more than double in value from $4.9 billion in 2013 to an estimated $13.3 billion by 2023.
The market is likely to grow by more than 10% annually.
Unfortunately, as disease prevalence increases, so does the burden on patients and their families.
The average cost of care for a patient with Alzheimer’s or dementia is $56,800 per year.
60% of that — or $34,500 per year — is covered out-of-pocket by the family.
This includes not only medical costs but also uncompensated caregiving and time missed from paid employment.
Family caregivers report very high levels of emotional stress, and about 40% suffer from depression.
“Due to the physical and emotional toll of caregiving, Alzheimer’s and dementia caregivers had $9.7 billion in additional healthcare costs of their own in 2014.”
— Alzheimer’s Association
All emotional costs aside, our health care system is simply not capable of handling this type of financial burden — the majority of which will be placed on Medicare.
Medicare spending on patients with degenerative mental illnesses is three times higher than those without.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, the disease is estimated to cost Americans $1.5 trillion by 2050.
If that’s not enough to raise concern, let’s all think about the fact that one in three senior citizens currently dies with Alzheimer’s or dementia.
Unless we develop a cure (or better treatment) for this illness, we can’t expect that rate to improve.
That makes it increasingly likely that you and I are both going to be leaving this world with some form of degenerative mental illness.
In the time it took you to read this article, more than five people developed Alzheimer’s.
Like I said, Anavex is announcing its results in just a few days. Knowing that, I hope I’m not the only one keeping my fingers crossed for the success of its novel treatment.