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Neurochem And Alzheimer's: Breaking Code Not Easy

CNBC.com

Shares of Neurochem today are trading at a new low after the Canadian biotech announced its developmental drug for Alzheimer's didn't work well enough. It is the latest evidence that cracking the code of this complex disease is extremely challenging. We recently did a story on the drug called Alzhemed, the potential AD-drug market and other companies working on treatments/cures at a dementia conference in Washington, DC. (see clip below from June)

We also did a live interview there with Neurochem's Chairman and CEO Francesco Bellini who said the analysis of the late-stage data was very difficult and would take longer than expected. Investors had been hoping Neurochem would have presented the full data at that conference.

In a press release the company says that the results "did not demonstrate a statistically significant difference in favor of (Alzhemed)" regarding the main goal of the study. However, it did see statistical signficance (that's the gold-standard threshold for drug efficacy) in the volume of one part of the brain (the hippocampus) that stores a lot of new memories and shrinks a lot in many Alzheimer's patients. (Click here to seeinfo on Alzheimer's and the brain.)

Neurochem says it's putting together a Scientific Advisory Board made up of outside experts to make recommendations to the company about what to do with Alzhemed. The drug was considered to be the furthest along in development aimed at treating one of the suspected causes of Alzheimer's.

Rodman & Renshaw biotech analyst Elemer Piros writes in a research note to clients this morning, "We believe that the North American Phase 3 data would not be usable to support a potential regulatory filing (for FDA approval) for Alzhemed; however, lessons learned from the statistical analysis plan could be applied to analysis of the data from Neurochem's European Phase 3 trial of Alzhemed, which is still ongoing." Piros has a market perform rating on NRMX with no target price and R&R may make a market in the stock.

The number of Americans with the disease is forecast to nearly triple between today and mid-century. The Newark Star-Ledger recently reported that by that time it's estimated that treating Alzheimer's will cost Medicare more than $1 trillion (with a T). That's one reason why Neurochem, Memory Pharmaceuticals, Myriad Genetics,Elan, Eli Lilly, and Merck--just to name a handful--are chasing it. Wyeth , however, which has spent nearly half-a-billion dollars on Alzheimer's research so far, has the biggest AD pipeline, but most of its candidates are in early--to mid-stage development.

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