Novartis to test Alzheimer's drug candidates in asymptomatic patients

Novartis (NYSE:NVS) plans to test two experimental Alzheimer's drugs on patients with a genetic risk of developing dementia caused by the buildup of amyloid protein. The intend is to determine if the treatments can prevent or delay symptoms of the disease. Currently approved medications treat the symptoms not the progression of the disease.

One of the drug candidates is an injectable immunotherapy currently in Phase 2 clinicals. It works by stimulating the immune system to produce natural antibodies that attack amyloid.

The second drug is an oral pill called a BACE inhibitor that is about to enter Phase 1 trials. It works by blocking an enzyme called beta secretase that is involved in the production of beta-amyloid.

Novartis' trial will involve more than 1,300 patients aged between 60 and 75 that have two genetic copies of apolipoprotein E epsilon 4 (APOE4) allele, a gene that contains instructions for making a protein that transports cholesterol. People with two copies of the gene have a 10x greater risk of developing Alzheimer's.

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