Going to the core to cure Alzheimer’s

“My biggest frustration is that we’ve cured Alzheimer’s in mice many times,” Dr. Frank Longo told Time magazine. “Why can’t we move that success to people?”

Now, he thinks he may be on the verge of seeing that success, by looking at things differently.

And his vision started at Carolina.

Since 2006, Longo has headed the Department of Neurology and Neurological Sciences at Stanford University. He arrived in Palo Alto from Chapel Hill, where he was chair of the Department of Neurology from 2001 to 2005. While at Carolina, he founded PharmatrophiX, a biopharmaceutical company that develops drugs to treat Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative disorders.

Rather than take conventional approaches that have shown promise in mice by eradicating the protein plaques associated with Alzheimer’s in animals, PharmatrophiX has focused on keeping brain cells and their essential connections strong to protect them against a remarkably wide range of degenerative processes.

“Most programs are working at the edges of the problem, but we’re going right after the core of it,” Longo said.

PharmatrophiX has developed a drug called LM11A-31, which proved safe in first-phase clinical trials. Phase II trials testing the drug in Alzheimer’s patients are scheduled to start during the summer of 2016 and will be based in Sweden and other European sites.

Alzheimer’s North Carolina provided key funding for Dr. Longo’s research at UNC. Numerous other organizations, including the NIH and the Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation, have since supported his work, which was featured in a Feb. 22, 2016, Time magazine cover story, “Alzheimer’s from a New Angle.”

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