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Mediforum acquires domestic rights to TauRX’s Alzheimer’s treatment

By Lim Jeong-yeo

Published : June 15, 2020 - 17:24

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Mediforum, previously C-TRI, said Monday that it has signed for the domestic rights to LMTX, a pioneering Alzheimer’s disease treatment being developed by Singapore’s TauRX.

Mediforum will complete the acquisition of the full intellectual rights to LMTX in Korea by the third quarter of this year, for which it will establish a subsidiary company in Korea. It is too early to say if this subsidiary will be a joint venture with TauRX, Mediforum said.

LMTX is currently the only Alzheimer’s disease drug that targets the tau protein that has gone as far as clinical phase 3 trials. Tau proteins are responsible for stabilizing microtubules, and scientists have discovered that tangling of the tau protein is one of the symptoms or indicators of Alzheimer’s.

The clear cause of Alzheimer’s disease, a common form of cognitive degeneration in elderly, is yet to be fully understood.

TauRX -- founded in Singapore by Claude Wischik, a Scottish professor of gerontology and old age psychiatry at Aberdeen University -- is the only company in the world that is undergoing the final-stage clinical tests of a tau aggregation inhibitor.

Spearheading the research, TauRX has conditional sales permits for LMTX in Singapore and the UK. It has also applied for reviews of the drug in China and Europe, as part of the Compensate Use Program for patients.

In Korea, Mediforum will manufacture and sell LMTX upon successful completion of clinical phase 3 trial and sales approval of the local drug authority.

The Alzheimer’s Disease International nonprofit organization counted 50 million patients said to be suffering dementia across the globe in 2015. The institute predicts the worldwide number to reach 131 million in 2050. The cost of tackling dementia was estimated at $818 billion globally in 2015, which goes to say that the number will grow to an astronomical figure by 2050.

In Korea, the incumbent Moon Jae-in administration has taken it upon itself to manage the dementia population as a state responsibility. The government has used annual spending of 14.6 trillion won ($12 billion) in carrying out its pledge, of which approximately 2.3 trillion won went to medical examination fees for dementia patients over 65 years old.

There were over 700,000 Alzheimer’s disease patients in Korea in 2018 above the age of 65. The figure is on an incremental scale, and is anticipated to climb to over a million in 2024 and 3 million in 2050.

Alzheimer’s disease treatments are notoriously difficult to research and develop. There are only five US Food and Drug Administration-approved novel drugs to treat the illness so far. These are Aricept, Exelon, Razadyne, Namenda and Namzaric. The first three mentioned are cholinesterase inhibitors, the fourth a memantine and the fifth a combination of Namenda and Aricept.

There is still no cure for Alzheimer’s disease or a way to stop or slow its progression. The aforementioned drugs alleviate symptoms of Alzheimer’s such as memory loss, confusion and difficulties in thinking and reasoning, but do not erase the illness itself.

The clinical trial failure rate for Alzheimer’s disease treatments is said to be 99.6 percent. Between 2002 and 2012, among 413 drugs that set out to treat the disease, only Namenda had been given the green light to proceed with clinical tests.

Despite the high risks in investing in Alzheimer’s disease treatment research, worldwide efforts continue.

Elsewhere, Samsung Biologics signed to contract develop Taiwanese firm Aprinoia’s tau protein-targeting Alzheimer’s treatment in March.

By Lim Jeong-yeo (kaylalim@heraldcorp.com)