Roche Bets on Early-Stage Alzheimer's: Luca Explains

Published: Dec 11, 2012

In recent months, Alzheimer’s compounds have been hot news. Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson had one that flopped. Eli Lilly released mixed study results that generated a mix of hype and hope. And Merck (back stories here, here and here). And Merck is betting on one in a test with patients suffering mild to moderate symptoms. Meanwhile, another big drugmaker, Roche, is chugging along with a few compounds of its own and hopes its focus on early-stage disease will prove correct. We spoke briefly with Luca Santarelli, the head of neuroscience at Roche, about its efforts… Pharmalot: The track record for combating Alzheimer’s isn’t so good. So tell us about your bet. Santarelli: Well, there’s a huge unmet medical need, of course, but also it’s an area where we think there is an ever-increasing understanding of the science of the disease and its course. With that in mind, we think if you put in context the increased mechanistic understanding that it’s a compelling case. So we remain confident in our research, as you can see from the multiple targets and compounds we’re pursuing. Pharmalot: What kind of investment are you making then? Santarelli: I won’t comment on the extent of our investment, but we have a broad effort. We’re targeting amyloid and we’re targeting tau. We currently have four late-stage clinical programs, which I would consider a significant commitment to this area.. There are 51 early-stage programs in the pipeline in neuroscience, and 25 to 30 percent are Alzheimer’s. These are in early development. Neuroscience is a bigger part of the pipeline and investment for Roche over the last few years. The clinical stage portfolio has 12 or 13 clinical programs, including three in Phase III and Alzheimer’s is a key part. It’s nowhere near the oncology investment, but again, it’s a growing pipeline.

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